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From inside North Korea, clues about Kim's agenda

23 0 0
07.06.2018

It’s been a roller coaster ride for anyone following plans for a June 12 summit between Donald Trump and Kim Jong Un. The actors were contradictory, the stage sets numerous and the messages chaotic. Within days of Trump’s May 24 cancellation of the Singapore meeting – and then the withdrawal of his withdrawal – President Moon Jae-in of South Korea met with the U.S. president in Washington and with the North Korean leader on the northern side of the demilitarized zone (DMZ) to help keep the summit alive. Meanwhile, U.S. officials flew to the DMZ and Singapore and a top North Korean official came to New York to plan (again) for the encounter.

As riveting as this turbulent drama may be, such external events are not the drivers of Pyongyang’s decision-making. Since the beginning of 2018, when Kim began his active campaign to portray his regime as a serious international player and hypothetically cooperative partner, analysts and commentators have been obsessed with whether Kim is sincere or staging an elaborate hoax. No one can know what Pyongyang’s “real” intentions are. But we can look inside the North Korean society for clues.

Monday’s reports that Pyongyang shuffled top military leaders before the Singapore summit gives us hints about possible power politics within North Korea and the complexity of managing domestic and foreign policy for the Kim regime. Without doubt, the military’s blessings and support are essential to any plans for even minimal denuclearization or significant efforts at warming up relations with Seoul, Washington and Beijing (and possibly Tokyo in the near future).

The Kim-Moon summit of April 27 offered visual evidence of support from the highest ranks of the military for Kim’s new diplomatic overtures. There were no economic experts in the DPRK delegation, but three of the nine members not related to Kim by blood were literally the top brass: General Pak Yong Sik, Minister of the People’s Armed Forces; General Ri Myong Su, chief of the General Staff of the Korean People’s Army and General Kim Yong Chol, the former spy chief who reportedly masterminded the torpedoing of a South Korean naval vessel in 2010. Additionally, Ri Son Gwon, who heads the bureau akin to South Korea’s........

© Japan Today