Throughout the dramatic year of 1989 the highly militaristic and secretive Hermit Kingdom of North Korea remained apparently unaffected and apart. Rather than follow the lead of his one-time Soviet patron in adopting glasnost and perestroika, Pyongyang's "Great Leader," Kim Il-sung, withdrew North Korean students from Eastern Europe in order to contain the freedom virus and moved closer to China's gerontocracy, a regime which used bullets to retain power.
Two years later, little has changed on the surface. North Korea's million-man military remains arrayed for war north of the Demilitarized Zone and Pyongyang appears dedicated to building a nuclear weapon. Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Colin Powell recently opined that he was down to just two "demons" to justify the Pentagon's budget: Kim and Fidel Castro. The Bush administration is resisting pressure to accelerate troop cuts on the peninsula--now set at 7,000 out of 43,000 by 1993--and Secretary of State James Baker has attempted to discourage the ASEAN countries from organizing regional meetings on security issues for fear of weakening America's bilateral ties in East Asia. "We ought to be careful about changing [existing arrangements]," he cautioned in response to proposals that Brunei, Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore, and Thailand integrate their economic and security planning independently of the United States.