No one doubts that there is a significant “North Korea problem.” Few doubt that the answer is “China.” Unfortunately, the few are those who rule China.
The so-called Democratic People’s Republic of Korea is creating global unease with its nuclear weapons program. The North Koreans are thought to have enough nuclear materials for ten to twelve bombs, though their actual capabilities are unknown.
Moreover, the North has been escalating its attacks on the Republic of Korea. A DPRK submarine is thought to have sunk a South Korean warship in March. Two weeks ago Pyongyang responded to ROK military exercises by bombarding a South Korean island in the Yellow Sea.
Still, “Dear Leader” Kim Jong Il’s regime offers a certain ugly stability. The man is known to enjoy his virgins in this life rather than the next, and therefore is unlikely to intentionally start the Second Korean War.
But he suffered a stroke two years ago and is advancing his youngest son, just twenty-eight or twenty-nine, as his heir apparent. The latter’s ascension is by no means certain. Other relatives could play a role in the coming transition. Moreover, a gaggle of Communist officials, military brass, security operatives and nameless bureaucrats have been waiting years for their chance to rule.
A power struggle could go violent as everyone looked to their favorite general. Perhaps the only thing worse than an opaque brutal dictatorship with nuclear weapons is an imploding opaque brutal dictatorship with nuclear weapons.