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The National: Pyongyang Ratchets Up the Tension

Author: Marcus Noland
May 28, 2009

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Marcus Noland of Peterson Institute for International Economics says although the North Korean case will be taken up in the UN Security Council, UN sanctions have proven utterly ineffective in deterring North Korean behavior.

North Korea's ailing leader Kim Jong-Il is determined to go out with a bang and not a whimper. Severely weakened by a stroke last year, the emaciated Kim has been frenetically delivering "on-the-spot guidance," as if to reassure himself and his country that he is still in control. This week's nuclear test was the most-recent and grandiose move to seal his legacy. Arising out of the context of presuccession maneuvering, this provocation is the latest manifestation of a retrograde turn back to the past, one that could have implications for the Middle East.

When Kim Jong-Il assumed power in 1994 after the death of his father, the country's founding leader Kim Il-Sung, he had been groomed for power for 20 years, reportedly running the country on a day-to-day basis for a decade. With his health now obviously in decline and after long speculation, his youngest son, the 25 year-old Jong-Un, appears to have been designated as Mr. Kim's replacement, with the title "Sagacious General, the One and Only Successor of the Great Leader Comrade Kim Jong-Il."

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