North Korea: Should we fear change? Lisa Ling
North Korea’s government was famously accused in 2002 by U.S. President George W. Bush of helping terrorism and seeking weapons of mass destruction, along with fellow “axis of evil” countries, Iran and Iraq.
Iraq’s leader Saddam Hussein was overthrown after the U.S. invaded in 2003 but the other two countries continued to defy the West by pursuing a nuclear program. So what will happen next after the death of North Korea’s leader Kim Jong Il?
How will the death affect military tensions in the region?
After Japan’s defeat in World War II, Korea became a divided nation. The capitalist South was supported by the United States and its Western allies, and the communist North became an ally of the Soviet Union.
A rare glimpse inside North Korea Kim Jong Il’s death shocks South Korea
Cold War tensions erupted in 1950 as the North invaded the South, devastating the peninsula and killing up to two million people before the fighting ended after three years with a truce, followed by an armistice. Technically, the two Koreas remain at war, and while the North is believed to have a standing army of one million soldiers, with reserves estimated at more than seven million, few expect it to launch a general assault on the South.
What military hardware does North Korea have?
Over the past six decades, skirmishes have flared repeatedly along land and sea borders. Deadly naval clashes occurred along the demarcation line in 1999, 2002, 2009 and 2010.
Washington also accuses Pyongyang of running a secret uranium-based nuclear program. The United States, along with the two Koreas, Russia, Japan and China, have been involved in what is called the Six Party Talks, but those negotiations have been slow and arduous.
Following Kim Jong Il’s death, Pyongyang urged an increase in the North’s “military capability,” prompting Seoul to put South Korean forces on high alert. Martin Navias, from the London-based Centre for Defence Studies, said South Korea raised its alert because it feared Kim Jong Un could be forced to show his toughness with “saber-rattling” and flex the North’s military muscles.
CNN’s Christiane Amanpour said it remained to be seen how talks would be affected. “The issue here,” she said, “is whether it will promote more hardline policies from some of the old guard. Whether they will circle the wagons around this young man and whether it will put a stop to the negotiations with the United States or whether they will go through nonetheless.”