Where’s Kim Jong-Il? The whereabouts of the reclusive North Korean leader prompted intense speculation this week, and reports placed him from Shanghai to Manchuria to Siberia. In the end, the Los Angeles Times and others found him in China, where it appears officials wooed him with tales of economic success (Miami Herald). Eventually, North Korea’s own Central News Agency, KCNA, also confirmed the “dear leader” was in China to ask for Beijing's help restarting the six-party nuclear disarmament talks (Korea Times). The on-again, off-again negotiations are outlined in this CFR Background Q&A.
In Beijing, Kim committed himself to a peaceful resolution of the standoff over the North’s nuclear program (AP). But Pyongyang has resisted setting a date for a new round of talks until the United States agrees to lift sanctions imposed over what Washington alleges is widespread counterfeiting of U.S. currency by the North (NYT). The talks have been stalled since November, when Pyongyang and Washington planned to flesh out a September agreement calling for the dismantlement of North Korea’s nuclear program in exchange for security assurances from the United States (WashPost)—an agreement nuclear expert Charles Pritchard tells cfr.org could have set the stage for tougher negotiations down the road. But the November talks broke down over still-unresolved issues (FT), including the dismantling and verification of Pyongyang’s nuclear program. Former U.S. Ambassadors to South Korea Stephen Bosworth and Donald P. Gregg, as well as Gordon G. Chang, author of Nuclear Showdown: North Korea Takes on the West, discuss U.S. strategy in the North Korean nuclear debate at a CFR meeting. CNN offers a timeline of the nuclear standoff with Pyongyang; nuclear experts Sigfried Hecker and Daniel Poneman discuss negotiating strategies with North Korea at a Carnegie Endowment conference; and East Asia expert Ruediger Frank says the South Korean-U.S. relationship is crucial to peace on the Korean Peninsula in a report for the Nautilus Institute.