North Korean leader Kim Jong Il apparently
fell ill last April, and months of treatment left him unable to continue
nuclear disarmament negotiations. It's unclear if he is back at work, but no
one else seems to be able to make decisions. Meanwhile, the Chinese have better
connections inside North Korea, but apparently do not share a lot of
information with anyone else. Defectors from North Korea believe that the
Chinese will take over if it appears that the North Korean government is about
to fall apart. The Chinese plan to install pro-Chinese North Koreans as head of
a new "North Korean" government, and institute the kind of economic
reforms they have been urging the North Korean to undertake for over a decade.
The Chinese do not want North Korea to merge with South Korea, nor do they want
North Korea to collapse (and send millions of starving refugees into northern
China. China and South Korea both want North Korea to stay independent, and
harmless. Thus China is willing to unofficially annex North Korea, knowing that
the South Koreans would go along with this as long as the fiction of North
Korean independence were maintained. South Korea won't admit this, but most South
Koreans know that absorbing North Korea would put a big dent in South Korean living
standards. That is more unpopular than any other outcome.
become a very contentious issue in the north. Farmers are becoming more
reluctant to turn over food to the government. That means food is being hidden,
and local government officials bribed or threatened to look the other way.
Politics also plays a big role in who gets UN food aid. This is one reason the
government has resisted UN demands that food distribution be monitored. The government
needs to control food distribution as another way to reward officials who are
most successful in controlling the population. It's a very successful incentive
North Korea is
getting angry at growing popular demand in South Korea that the north treat
it's people better. The North Korean government gets very angry at these
accusations, not to mention this "interference" in their internal
affairs. But for decades, South Korea played down the human rights in the north,
in order to develop better diplomatic relations. But the human rights news from
the north kept getting worse, and popular opinion in the south turned against
the policy of silence.
28, 2008: The U.S. has sent a senior
diplomat to South Korea, to try and work out some way to get North Korea to
halt its nuclear weapons work, and resume negotiations.
25, 2008: North Korea has offered to
resume negotiations with South Korea, the first time they have indicated any
interest in this since the new, more conservative, South Korean government took
power last February.
24, 2008: The seals and UN IAEA
monitoring equipment have been removed, by the North Koreans, from their
partially dismantled Yongbyon nuclear reactor.
21, 2008: South Korea is reducing its
military buffer zone south of the DMZ (demilitarized zone) separating it from North
Korea, from 15 kilometers to 10 kilometers. This will free up land for
commercial use. The South Koreans believe the North Korean military is in poor
shape, and that another North Korean invasion is highly unlikely.
19, 2008: North Korea announced that it
was restarting its nuclear research reactor at Yongbyon. This would take
several months, and they have enough nuclear material to produce enough plutonium
for one nuclear bomb. North Korea is doing this because it refuses to allow international
inspectors to affirm that the North Korean nuclear weapons program has been
shut down, and stays shut down. The U.S. refuses to send North Korea food and
fuel unless there is acceptable verification. North Korea will not tolerate any
kind of verification.
12, 2008: Despite efforts of the secret
police and Communist Party, word of Kim Jong Ils illness got out in the wake of
the September 9th celebrations in the capital, for the 60th anniversary
celebrations of the founding of North Korea. Kim Jong Il did not show up, and
the thousands of people from all over the country (to march and demonstrate
their loyalty to the state) were exposed to the many rumors in the city.