Reuters blog archive
from The Great Debate:
Kim Jong Un has apparently gone AWOL. His movements unknown, the reason for his sudden invisibility mysterious. Nobody in Pyongyang is saying anything. But then nobody in Pyongyang ever says very much.
Still, Kim has been hard to find since early September and the North Korean media have not posted any pictures of him inspecting a jam factory or shouting into a field telephone at some remote artillery post. “Kim watching” is bread and butter to the smallish coterie of Pyongyang Watchers and radio silence inevitably gets ratcheted up to suspicions of ill health, death, murder or coup.
In the world of North Korea analysis there’s no light comedy or gentle drama – it’s always straight to Macbeth! But hold on a minute before we put the U.S. Seventh Fleet on red alert or open up the bomb shelters in Seoul. We’ve been here before…
Rumors of attempted military coups among the shadowy Pyongyang elite have emerged regularly over the years. The 1950s and 1960s saw show trials of senior military personnel, when Kim Il-sung purged political rivals after sequestering himself and leaving analysts wondering where he’d got to. In the late 1960s Chinese Red Guards claimed that Kim Il-sung had been arrested by army generals after he wasn’t seen for a bit. A further purge of the military hierarchy reportedly followed, so maybe the Red Guards knew more than most.
from Global Investing:
A wide range of topics -- from North-South relations, human rights, a potential nuclear test to a new generation of young diplomats -- were discussed, but under the so-called Chatham House rules (meaning I cannot reveal who said what).
from Global Investing:
Investors are bracing themselves this year for elections in all of "Fragile Five" countries and a number of other emerging nations that are adding political concerns to those economies already vulnerable to capital flight risks.
Perhaps a lesser-known political event that is coming up in 2014 is in North Korea, which will hold "elections" for its parliament on March 9.
from Photographers' Blog:
Pyongyang, North Korea
By Jason Lee
From stepping on to the Air Koryo flight to Pyongyang on the evening of July 24th until my return on the 29th, I didn’t stop taking pictures. Our group from Reuters, visiting the secretive state of North Korea for its celebrations marking the 60th anniversary of the end of the Korean War, often found ourselves with no time to eat. It was only in the taxi on the way home from Beijing airport that I had time to think back on my trip.
It was the experience of a lifetime, a nation of 22 million people showing a depression and weakness of spirit that I tried my best to interpret through my cameras.
from Ian Bremmer:
For an American emissary looking to have an impact, there’s no better place to visit than North Korea. Most of the world is shut out of Kim Jong-un’s country, and the U.S. government has so few levers to influence policy that any American who finds his way in will make news.
That doesn’t mean the news will be good news. Former UN Ambassador Bill Richardson and former Google CEO Eric Schmidt didn’t accomplish much during their January visit, and basketball carny Dennis Rodman was as embarrassing as one would expect. In North Korea, even tourists can make headlines: Laura Ling and Euna Lee were detained in 2009 after filming refugees on the China-North Korea border. They became flashpoints in the U.S.-North Korean standoff because Pyongyang had nothing else to work with.
from John Lloyd:
As Donald Rumsfeld used to say, there are known unknowns. Two of them are confronting the world today, and both stem from the Korean peninsula.
One: What will North Korean leader Kim Jong-un do now? He’s ordered missiles to be ramped up, fired a gun on TV, watched missiles shoot down dummy planes and told his military they were cleared for an attack on South Korea and the United States. He said “a sea of fire” would engulf his enemies if they dared to provoke him. Earlier this week, South Korea’s Unification Minister, Ryoo Kihi-Jae, said “there are signs” that a fourth nuclear test is being prepared at the Punggye-ri test site. What is the next move?
from Ian Bremmer:
President Obama’s recent trip to South Korea may have gained attention for his “open mic” slipup with outgoing Russian President Medvedev over missile defense, but that’s just a media distraction from the importance of Obama’s visit to the Korean peninsula. After Kim Jong Il’s death in December, the U.S. took an early lead in negotiations with North Korea – doing so because Obama and his team thought it could be an easy diplomatic win. With the promise of aid and food, the U.S. could let new leader Kim Jong-un quietly drop the consistently belligerent stance the country has taken in what passes for its foreign policy.
It’s now clear that easy win is not going to happen. Despite Kim’s titular status, we still don’t really know who is in charge in North Korea. While there have been no major coups, protests, or blowups, there have been plenty of smaller events, like military executions due to insubordination, that point to a high likelihood of purges happening in the regime. Now factor in that North Korea has gotten decidedly more, rather than less, militant on the nuclear arms front. Its announcement of a satellite test is a thinly veiled attempt to launch a long-range ICBM. The global community is perceiving it as such – with South Korea threatening to shoot the missile down. The vitriol coming out of the North Korean propaganda machine is as hardline and aggressive as we’ve seen in many years.
By Martin Hutchinson
The author is a Reuters Breakingviews columnist. The opinions expressed are his own.
A limited nuclear deal with the United States suggests North Korea’s Kim Jong-un might be looking for a thaw. If the country’s basketball-loving young master really wants to build on that agreement and bring economic growth to his impoverished citizens, land reform would be a good place to start.
By John Foley (The author is a Reuters Breakingviews columnist. The opinions expressed are his own)
The greatest achievement of Kim Jong-il was to keep North Korea cut off as the rest of the world joined up. The Dear Leader, who died on Dec. 17 according to state media, didn't manage it perfectly - the "hermit state" imports energy and food from China, and until lately the odd bottle of French cognac. But North Korea's quest for self-sufficiency has left the people in ignorance of the modern world and created grinding economic hardship. Kim's successor, likely his youngest son Jung-un, will struggle to lift that heavy burden.
from Tales from the Trail:
"We will not be drawn into rewarding North Korea for bad behavior," State Department spokesman P.J. Crowley said today, after revelations that the world's most reclusive state showed off its latest advances in uranium enrichment. "They frequently anticipate doing something outrageous or provocative and forcing us to jump through hoops as a result. We're not going to buy into this cycle."
Those are sound intentions, although analysts are already predicting the United States will find a way to restart six-party talks in the next six months or so if only as a containment strategy, despite the fact that North Korea appears completely unwilling to talk seriously about denuclearization.