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Updated: December 20, 2011 09:31 IST

Death likely to derail nuclear talks

Ananth Krishnan
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South Korea responded to news of Kim Jong-il's death by placing its military on high alert on Monday, with renewed fears of regional instability as a new North Korean government under Mr. Kim's son Kim Jong-un looks to assert control.
AP
South Korea responded to news of Kim Jong-il's death by placing its military on high alert on Monday, with renewed fears of regional instability as a new North Korean government under Mr. Kim's son Kim Jong-un looks to assert control.

Focus likely on stability rather than denuclearisation

South Korea responded to news of Kim Jong-il's death by placing its military on high alert on Monday, with renewed fears of regional instability as a new North Korean government under Mr. Kim's son Kim Jong-un looks to assert control.

While South Korean officials reported on Monday that the North had test-fired a short-range missile shortly after announcing Mr. Kim's death — it was, however, unclear whether the missile test was a related event — the Joint Chiefs of Staff in Seoul placed all military units on emergency alert. “The military will likely step up their vigilance on the border,” an official told the Yonhap news agency. “I hope as a soldier that this will not lead to a military provocation like the Cheonan attack or Yeonpyeong Island bombing,” he said, referring to two incidents last year that strained ties between the neighbours.

South Korean President Lee Myung-bak told his Cabinet Ministers on Monday “to ensure that the North Korean leader's death will not pose a threat to peace and stability on the Korean Peninsula”.

“Peace and stability on the Korean Peninsula is more important than anything else,” Mr. Lee was quoted as saying.

Mr. Kim's death, analysts fear, could derail recent moves to kick-start the stalled Six-Party talks — involving China, Japan, the United States and Russia, besides the Korean neighbours — to get the North to abandon its nuclear programme and move the Korean peninsula towards denuclearisation.

Recent deals

The North has, in recent months, signalled it would be willing to return to the talks. Even in recent days, reports said the North was considering striking a deal with the U.S. for food aid. In return, it would suspend its uranium enrichment programme.

Any breakthrough would now be unlikely, analysts said, as the new leadership under Kim Jong-un would focus on maintaining political stability at home.

“It is likely that such negotiations would be postponed as North Korea goes through a mourning period, formalised succession process, and possible retrenchment of its foreign policies,” said Bruce Klingner, Senior Research Fellow for Northeast Asia in the Asian Studies Centre at The Heritage Foundation.

“[His death] is not good news for the Six-Party Talks,” added Gong Keyu, deputy director of the Centre for Asian-Pacific Studies at the Shanghai Institute for International Studies and a leading Chinese scholar on North Korea.

“I think nothing will happen for some time. If he is like his father, when Kim Il-sung died, Kim Jong-il, for three years, had a ‘wait and see' approach. So this time too, maybe nothing will happen. Kim Jong-un will pay more attention to his [political] system, not to Six-Party Talks or nuclear weapons. He will not be interested in denuclearisation.”

Succession issues

At the heart of the question of how events in the region will unfold is the opaque internal politics in Pyongayng. Little is known for certain about how much influence the younger Mr. Kim, thought to be in his late 20s, will be able wield.

According to analysts, his father had already set up an inner circle to support his son. Kim Jong-il's brother-in-law, Chang Song-taek, and sister Kim Kyoung-hui, are both regarded as being crucial sources of support, along with a small group of military generals. Both Mr. Chang and Ms. Kim were named as members of the funeral committee headed by Mr. Kim Jong-un that was announced on Monday.

Mr. Kim's death fell at a crucial time for both North and South Korea. For both countries, 2012 has been framed as a landmark year. While the South will see presidential elections next year, the North has declared 2012 as the year the country will become “a powerful and prosperous nation”.

Crucial year

April 2012 also marks the centennial birthday of Kim Il-sung — Kim Jong-il's father and the founder of the Democratic People's Republic of Korea — which will be grandly celebrated, even as the nation struggles with food shortages and economic uncertainty. “Looking at the importance of 2012, there was a feeling that there would be an important development in relations between North and South,” said Ms. Gong. “But after Kim's death, we will now have to wait and see.”

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Will there be a war of succession among his sons or an army coup? We will never know exactly how Kim Jong-il saw himself, but to most of the world he was an old-fashioned tyrant - living in luxury while his people starved to death, presiding over a state that shamelessly engaged in criminal activities and threatening his neighbours with nuclear destruction.

from:  A.Yeshuratnam
Posted on: Dec 20, 2011 at 13:25 IST

He probably died from the Nuclear Radiation from Fukushima Japan. Several videos have been uploaded in Youtube by residents from Korea with dosimeters showing the radiation levels way above normal since the Fukushima accident. Many Japanese want to escape to Korea and the Korean wants to escape elsewhere but who will want radio-active individuals who can bombard others with invisible alpha rays, beta rays and gamma rays which eventually leads to Cancer?

from:  angela alvares
Posted on: Dec 20, 2011 at 10:31 IST

It's surprising how Kim Jong-il (RIP) is hogging so much attention in the Hindu, while the death of the great revolutionary Vaclav Havel hardly finds mention in website of the newspaper-I literally had to 'search' Havel. Kim Jong-il ran roughshod over countless dissidents and had scant regard for their basic human rights, while Havel was the emblem of upholding these very civil liberties. Granted, even the death of the most evil but influential person deserves coverage, but then why leave Havel out? I hate to say this, but one wonders whether the Hindu's ideological tilt has anything to do with this...

from:  Dinesh Iyer
Posted on: Dec 20, 2011 at 08:20 IST
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