What do we really know about Kim Jong Un’s departure from the public eye? There is talk that the North Korean leader is “in grave danger” or “a vegetative state”; that he suffered a “botched” heart operation; that he was wounded by an explosion from a missile test; and so on. Not impossible. But let’s start with what we actually, factually, know.
First, recall Nobel laureate Paul Samuelson’s famous adage that the stock market has correctly predicted nine of the past five recessions. So, too, the relation between prolonged Kim family disappearances and supreme leader funerals. Every tyrant in the Kim family regime has gone missing multiple times, and for extended periods, only to pop up again alive and in charge.… Seguir leyendo »
Three generations of totalitarian misrule have left North Korea woefully incapable of containing, or even suppressing, a coronavirus epidemic. The same intelligent (and malevolent) design that has turned the country into the world’s most exquisitely oppressive police state has also inadvertently converted it into a prospective infection deathtrap.
North Korea’s notorious gulag camps and prisons, as well as its military barracks, are petri-dishes-in-waiting for communicable disease. The government’s worst-in-class transparency practices ensure that it will automatically censor information (bad news in particular) that might help identify the coronavirus and limit its spread. Longstanding economic failure means that much of the population is poorly nourished and vulnerable to infection.… Seguir leyendo »
Is anyone surprised? On the last day of 2019, after months of threatening the United States to ease its nuclear standoff with “a bold decision” by year’s end — or else — the leader of North Korea darkly announced that the country would unveil a new strategic weapon “in the near future.” Kim Jong-un also declared an end to a moratorium on nuclear weapons and missile tests. On the first day of 2020, he did not deliver his customary, often fiery, New Year’s address. In other words, he interrupted his regularly scheduled program to bring us his latest threat.
The false calm is over; the old North Korean nuclear crisis is back on — only, it has just entered a deadly serious phase.… Seguir leyendo »
Guess what country just issued stamps of Donald Trump? North Korea! Yes: An official postage stamp features grave-looking likenesses of President Trump and Kim Jong-un, the leader of North Korea, standing side by side. It commemorates their pleasantry-laden chitchat earlier this summer at Panmunjom, in the Demilitarized Zone between the two Koreas.
Why is North Korea celebrating that moment as “historic” (Mr. Kim’s own word)? Because it has to. After Mr. Kim scurried down to get whatever face time the American would grant him, the scene had all the makings of a public humiliation. So the North Koreans are now aggressively pretending that the encounter was somehow a coup for Mr.… Seguir leyendo »
And so they meet again. President Trump and Kim Jong-un, the ruler of North Korea, are expected to gather this week in Hanoi, Vietnam, for a second round of nuclear negotiations. Mr. Kim bested Mr. Trump at their first meeting in Singapore in June last year. And he is poised to do so again.
The reason is simple: He has a strategy and the Americans do not. The United States hopes to somehow keep the world safe from North Korea. But Mr. Kim has an actual plan to make the world safe for North Korea.
Mr. Kim’s plan — the same as his father’s and grandfather’s, and one breathtakingly revisionist — is nothing less than unconditional reunification of the Korean Peninsula under the control of his government in Pyongyang.… Seguir leyendo »
When the government of South Korea announced last week that it would begin work on a formal peace treaty with North Korea, to be discussed at a summit meeting on April 27, its so-called Sunshine Policy of engagement gave way to P.T. Barnum-style, a-sucker-born-every-minute diplomacy.
Fighting in the Korean War ended in 1953 with just an armistice, and South Korean officials are calling for a “permanent peace.” But it is not merely unrealistic to hope that Kim Jong-un, the leader of the North, will offer the South real and lasting peace; it is delusional.
If the past is any guide, the North will offer the South unenforceable verbiage.… Seguir leyendo »
The talks that opened this week between the North and South Korean governments are off to an inauspicious start: Even before negotiators could settle into their seats, the North had pocketed its first concession from the South, offering nothing in return.
North Korean negotiators are practiced hands in the art of “we win and you lose” deal-making. Unless the team of President Moon Jae-in of South Korea has the fortitude to stand up to such ploys and has a solid game plan of its own, there is a serious risk that the South, its allies and much of the international community will come out of these apparent peace overtures even less secure than before.… Seguir leyendo »
The career of Kim Jong Il, North Korea's "Dear Leader," was marked by a series of historical firsts — most of them dubious at best. He was, to begin, the first ruler of a Marxist-Leninist state to inherit absolute power through hereditary succession from his father, "Great Leader" Kim Il Sung, founder of the Democratic People's Republic of Korea, or DPRK.
He was also the first ruler of an urbanized, literate society to preside over a mass famine in peacetime: The Great North Korean Famine of the 1990s, which erupted shortly after his father's death, is believed to have killed hundreds of thousands of his subjects, and perhaps more.… Seguir leyendo »
Two years into the Obama administration — after detonating a nuclear weapon, test-firing long-range ballistic missiles, killing dozens of South Korean sailors in an unprovoked torpedo strike, unveiling a long-denied uranium enrichment facility, and murdering South Korean civilians in a daylight artillery attack that was broadcast globally — Pyongyang has decided to return to the negotiation tables.
With China’s backing, North Korea is vigorously campaigning to draw the United States into another round of “six-party talks,” the multilateral deliberations on North Korean “denuclearization” first convened in 2003.
American officials appear increasingly receptive; this weekend, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is to visit South Korea, purportedly to test the waters with this key U.S.… Seguir leyendo »
Russia is a rising power today, and will be doing a lot more rising in the decades ahead. At least this is what we hear nowadays from pundits, Western intelligence services, presidential candidates and, of course, Russian officials themselves. The Kremlin’s own supreme confidence in this vision of the Russian future was captured nicely by its announcement last year that it expects to be the world’s fifth largest economy in 2020, along with China, India, Japan and the United States. Despite the current global economic crisis, Russian officials are still predicting continuing rapid growth for their nation; Prime Minister Vladimir Putin is even talking of a robust 5.5 percent growth rate for Russia for the coming year.… Seguir leyendo »