North Korea said on Tuesday that it will put all its nuclear facilities — including its operational uranium-enrichment program and its reactors mothballed or under construction — to use in expanding its nuclear weapons arsenal, sharply raising the stakes in the escalating standoff with the United States and its allies.
The announcement by the North’s General Department of Atomic Energy came two days after the country’s leader, Kim Jong-un, said his nuclear weapons were not a bargaining chip and called for expanding his country’s nuclear arsenal both in “quality and quantity” during a meeting of the Central Committee of the ruling Workers’ Party of Korea.
The decision will affect the role of the North’s uranium-enrichment plant in the North’s main nuclear complex in Yongbyon, north of Pyongyang, a spokesman for the nuclear department told the Korean Central News Agency. This marked the first time North Korea said that it would use the facility to make nuclear weapons. Since first unveiling it to a visiting U.S. scholar in 2010, North Korea had insisted that it was running the plant to make reactor fuel to generate electricity, though Washington suggested its purpose was to make bombs.
Not known for its sense of humor, the Chinese Communist Party’s official mouthpiece apparently fell for a parody by The Onion, the satirical newspaper and Web site, when it reported Tuesday in some online editions of People’s Daily that Kim Jong-un, the young, chubby North Korean ruler, had been named the “Sexiest Man Alive for 2012.”
Or did it?
He offered respects to grandfather Kim Il-sung and late father Kim Jong-il.
Mr Kim praised the “military first” doctrine and said the time his nation could be threatened was “forever over”.
There was also a huge military parade in the main square which unveiled what appeared to be a large new missile - two days after a failed rocket launch.
The launch was condemned by the international community, amid concern that it was a covert test of long-range missile technology.
The death of Kim Jong-il and subsequent dynastic transfer of power in North Korea caused a spasm of hope in the policy community that the secretive and totalitarian nation might embark on economic and political reforms. As the new leader, Kim Jong-un, was exposed to Western affluence while receiving his education in Switzerland—so the wishful thinking goes—surely he would realize the benefits of opening up his country. In fact, the young and inexperienced scion of the Kim dynasty derives his legitimacy solely from his family heritage. He has every reason to perpetuate the oppressive system built by his grandfather and buttressed by his father. In fact, how much Kim Jong-un’s ideas and beliefs matter will remain questionable, at least over the short term. It is reasonable to assume that the untested leader will be guided by guardians or perhaps regents. This means that he may not be the one calling the shots, at least for the time being. The opaqueness of the power structure, meanwhile, has important implications for the outside world. The consolidation of power is likely to be still in progress, and it would take months—possibly even longer—for outside observers to learn how policies are determined. With Kim Jong-il, the world at least knew with whom it was dealing. Under Kim Jong-un, we may not even enjoy that advantage for some time to come.
There is little that is known about Kim Jong-un, apart from the fact that he is the third son of Kim Jong-il, is in his late twenties, and spent some time at a school in Switzerland. His youth and exposure to the Western world have prompted hope in some quarters that he would be more open to reforms aimed at reviving the country’s dysfunctional economy. History has shown, however, that foreign exposure does not always lead to liberal policies. Cambodia’s Pol Pot, who was responsible for the murder of approximately twenty percent of his country’s population, was educated partly in France. Liberian dictator Charles Taylor holds a university degree from the United States—and is accused of war crimes and human rights abuses.
Kim Jong-un was chosen over at least two older members of the family. One is Kim Jong-nam, a half brother who reportedly fell out of favor after being detained in Japan for trying to enter the country on a forged passport in 2001. The other is Kim Jong-chol, a full brother. According to a book by a former Japanese chef of the late Kim Jong-il, the North Korean leader complained about his second-oldest son, saying that he is “like a girl.” Kim Jong-un had long been his father’s favorite, according to the same source, who was the North Korean dictator’s chef for thirteen years until leaving the country in 2001. (The Hermit Kingdom is so thoroughly closed to Western eyes that even such anecdotal information is treasured by outside observers.)
Twitter may serve many valid purposes, but also means that unsubstantiated rumors can get thrown around with the greatest of ease. For example, Chinese bloggers are Twittering that North Korean leader Kim Jong-un was assassinated in Beijing today.
They’re claiming that this was part of a coup or assassination by outside forces - nothing is quite clear and nothing is substantiated by anything more than unnamed individuals.
Official Internet Rule: Any (Chinese) Twitter post that begins with “according to reliable source” is almost certainly fake. But this hasn’t stopped Chinese netizens from speculating that the killing was a military coup, and posting blurry pictures purporting to show an unusual number of vehicles parked at the North Korean embassy. ChinaSMACK staff writer Joe Xu suggests reports of large number of cars at the embassy may have sparked the rumor. “Rumors like this pop up every other week,” he writes on Twitter.
With the way that North Korea and China both operate, these rumors get a life of their own because the regimes are quite insular and don’t let on who controls what and want to control the flow of information. The lack of information means that rumors can blossom on the drop of a hat and can gain credence by speculation.
No evidence. No facts. Just twitterings.
Heck, does anyone even know if Jong-un was supposed to be in China when this allegedly occurred? It seems that facts get thrown out the window and speculation and the North Korean version of Kremlinology takes over (making policy decisions on the basis of photos and what they do and don’t show - such as figuring out who is or isn’t in favor by leaders by where they stand/sit in photos).
What this does show is that there are a whole lot of people who wouldn’t mind seeing the North Korean regime fail, and an assassination (or attempted assassination) in North Korea’s benefactor’s capital would be a huge blow to China as well.
Kim’s body will be displayed at Pyongyang’s Kumsusan Memorial Palace, where his father and North Korea founder Kim Il-sung’s embalmed body has been lying since his death in 1994.
The body of North Korean leader Kim Jong-il lies in state during his funeral at the Kumsusan Memorial Palace in Pyongyang.
Kim Jong-il’s son and successor, Kim Jong-un, has been solidifying power since his father died of a heart attack on Dec 17.
The official Korean Central News Agency said on Thursday that North Korea will also erect a statue of Kim Jong-il, set up portraits of a smiling Kim and build “towers to his immortality” across the country.
Kim died on December 17 of a heart attack at age 69 after 17 years in charge of the impoverished but nuclear-armed nation. His son Kim Jong-un has taken over the leadership.
The ruling communist party, describing the late Kim as its “eternal leader”, announced that his body would lie in state at the Kumsusan Memorial Palace.
Kim’s corpse was on display at the palace before an elaborate funeral on December 28. The embalmed body of his father, founding President Kim Il-sung, is on view to favoured visitors at the building.
The party, in a report carried by the official news agency, announced plans for a statue to Kim Jong-il. It also said smiling portraits “and towers to his immortality” would be built nationwide.
His birthday on February 16, “the greatest auspicious holiday of the nation”, would be named the Day of the Shining Star, according to the decision made by the political bureau of the party’s central committee.
The late Kims were the subject of a massive personality cult that bestowed near-godlike status on them. Kim Il-sung, whose birthday on April 15 is known as the Day of the Sun, was declared eternal president after his death in 1994.
The North is now burnishing the image of Jong-un, who is aged in his late 20s.
The death of Kim Jong-il plunged diplomats, military strategists and political leaders among its neighbors and much further afield into a state of anxiety and uncertainty on Monday as they awaited some signal on isolated North Korea’s nuclear intentions and its handling of the succession.
The response was colored by the secretive nature of the regime in Pyongyang which while grooming Mr. Kim’s youngest son, King Jong-un, as the heir-apparent, allowed little of substance to be known about him.
But, from Beijing to London, outsiders peering into the opaque North Korea said they hoped the transition from would be achieved without worsening tensions on of the Korean peninsula.
Even as state media in Pyongyang referred to Kim Jong-un as “the great successor,” Japan said it hoped Kim Jong-il’s death “does not have an adverse effect on the peace and stability of the Korean peninsula.” A brief statement from the Chinese authorities — whose reaction to potential turmoil in North Korea could dominate the regional response — offered “deep condolences,” news reports said.
In South Korea, the military went on high alert as President Lee Myung-bak called for calm and urged residents to pursue their normal lives, news reports said. President Lee was reported to have spoken to allies in Washington and Japan to coordinate their response.
A White House statement said: “We remain committed to stability on the Korean peninsula and to the freedom and security of our allies.”
China’s Xinhua news agency quoted the Foreign Ministry spokesman, Ma Zhaoxou as saying Beijing was “distressed” to learn of the death. “We express our grief about this and extend our condolences to the people of North Korea.”
So this is what we get to see running NK next…
Kim Jong-un, the third son and heir of North Korean leader Kim Jong-il, showed a strong affection for nuclear weapons since he was a child, according to Kim senior’s former personal chef. Kenji Fujimoto quoted Kim Jong-un as saying uranium mines are the North’s “sole assets.”
Fujimoto was Kim’s chef for 13 years until he fled the communist county in 2001 and knew both his second son Jong-chol and Jong-un since they were small. Having recently published the Korean edition of a book entitled “North Korea’s Heir, Why Kim Jong-un?,” Fujimoto told the Chosun Ilbo in Seoul on Friday that Jong-un briefly returned to North Korea from his studies abroad in the early 2000s and said, “Our industrial technology lags behind. All we have is uranium ore.”
Fujimoto said Kim senior showed his preference for his youngest son since the boys were young, saying in front of top officials, “The big one [Jong-chol] has a weak heart and is feminine, but the young one is manly.” “To a first-time observer, it looked like Jong-un was the older brother and Jong-chol the younger,” Fujimoto said.
Kim Jong-il told Jong-un since he was 15 that a man had to hold his liquor and allowed him to drink, but ordered him not to smoke. Jong-un favored Johnny Walker whisky and secretly smoked Yves Saint Laurent cigarettes with Fujimoto. He had a Mercedes 600 sedan and was fond of South Korean pop music and the Super Mario Brothers and Tetris computer games.
Fujimoto recalled Jong-un once told him, “I roller blade, play basketball and go jet skiing in the summer, but I wonder how other people live.” he visited Tokyo Disney Land with his mother Ko Young-hui.