Kim Jong-Un Follows in His Father's Footsteps
April 17, 2012
Speaking for the first time April 15 in Pyongyang at a military parade, the newly minted North Korean leader 28-year-old Kim Jong-Un showed the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree. Taking over Jan. 29, 2011, the world hoped he’d change from his father Kim Jong-Il’s reclusive, hostile and eccentric rule. When 70-year old Kim Jong-Il died of cancer Dec. 17, 2011, the world hoped for a new day. Speaking at Pyongyang’s Kim Il-Sung Square, the twenty-something Communist Party boss promised to invest his country’s resources in the military. Following a failed missile launch Friday, April 14, Kim compensated for the embarrassment, revealing a new long-range missile capable of hitting the United States. “Superiority in military technology is no longer monopolized by imperialists, and the era of enemies using atomic bombs to threaten and blackmail us is forever over,” said Kim.
Promising a “Military First” strategy, Kim reinforced North Korea’s rogue state, rejecting all nuclear treaties and blindly pursuing atomic weapons. When his father detonated a plutonium bomb May 26, 2009, the world gasped, validating former President George W. Bush’s Jan. 29, 2002 State of the Union speech, fingering North Korea as part of the Axis of Evil with Iraq and Iran. Kim’s 20-minute speech confirms North Korea’s rogue state, blindly pursuing nuclear bombs at the expense of the international community. Kim talks of imperialist’s “blackmail,” when in truth, North Korea wants atomic weapons to exact concessions from the West. Boasting of a 1.2 million-man army, Kim continued his country’s policy of threatening South Korea with almost certain retaliation. With 30,000 U.S. troops along the most dangerous border on the planet, the threat of war looms daily.
North Korea, with the help of Russia and China, fought South Korea and U.S. to a standoff, signing only an armistice July 27,1953, designating the 43rd parallel as a demilitarized zone. Some analysts see Kim’s first speech to show “he demonstrated that he can speak in public fairly well, and at this stage that in itself—more than what he actually said—is important. I think we might be seeing him speak in public more often, and show a different style than his father,” said Japan’s Shizouoka University North Korean expert Hajime Izumi. Kim’s speech was designed to put North Korea’s enemies on notice that the twenty-something’s firmly in charge. Promising to put North Korea’s military as “first, second and third” priorities, Kim offered an olive branch to those not hostile to his country, promising to pursue a policy of reunification—something unrealistic with the North’s nuclear fetish.
Kim promised to pursue economic growth, despite famine and loss of material support from the old Soviet Union. Pursuing nuclear weapons isolated North Korea, pushing most countries, other than China and Russia, and perhaps rogue states like Cuba and Nicaragua, from any economic cooperation. Referring to his country as “Kim il-Sung’s Korea,” Kim showed continuity with his father and grandfather. “That suggests to me that they want to let the country, and the world, know that this is a ‘new’ country,” said University of Georgia North Korean expert Han Park. Kim’s speech mirrors the same reclusive tendency as his predecessors, believing that nuclear bombs and missiles give North Korean clout with the West. North Korea’s history reflects belligerent confrontations, threatening to cancel the armistice and resume fighting in the shaky demilitarized zone.
After North Korea’s official press agency admitted failure in the April 14 satellite launch, Kim struck back against the bad PR with a military parade, showcasing his latest technology. Displaying a new Intercontinental Ballistic Missile, Kim hoped to divert attention away from North Korea’s poverty, starvation and broken economy. Some experts think after the botched rocket launch, Kim will do something dramatic, like detonate a new nuclear device. Speculation now surrounds detonating a fissile bomb with North Korea’s own enriched uranium. Concluding Sunday’s military parade, Kim showcased a new ICBM, capable of hitting the United States. North Korea military expert Narushige Michishita doubted the new ICBM was much different from the multistage rocket that failed April 14, looking more like the Taepodong-2 rocket that North Korea unsuccessfully launched in 2006.
After Kim’s speech, Obama’s “engagement” strategy with North Korea looks in doubt. Unless Kim Jong-Un comes to his senses, engagement is going to be difficult while the North pursues new A-bombs. There’s nothing new in Kim’s words from his reclusive father other than paying lip-service to improving the economy. Putting all his eggs in the military and A-bombs doesn’t sound like an invitation for bilateral talks. White House officials can’t rely on China knocking some sense into North Korea. Like his father, Kim continues to huff-and-puff and bluff his way into more concessions from the West. Whether Kim’s bluffing or not, Obama must reset U.S. North Korea policy to engage Kim through the five permanent members of the U.N. Security Council. Barack’s plans for bilateral talks don’t seem realistic with Kim’s continued feverish pursuit of new A-bombs.
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