Op-Ed: As North Korea bids farewell to its all-powerful leader Kim Jong-il, foreign powers look with uncertainty toward his son and successor Kim Jong-un. Its giant neighbor China could be both model and power broker for Pyongyang, but the West may have o
Legend says Kim Jong-il could make anything happen, even storms. His son Kim Jong-un, just officially named "Supreme Leader," doesn't seem to hold quite the same powers. But the tens of thousands of North Koreans gathered for the two-day funeral of his father were thoroughly playing their part in the freezing cold. Indeed, nothing seems to be disturbing the perfectly crafted scenario of succession.
Truth be told, no one is more eager for things to remain as they are than foreign powers, which have been living in fear of the unknown since the North Korean leader's death on Dec. 17. The situation in North Korea looks like a recipe for disaster.
North Korea is the world's most isolated country, it is believed to have nuclear arms, and has one of the world's largest armies. It shares borders with China, Russia and its arch-nemesis South Korea. When such a country loses its leader, it is understandable that foreign countries, whether democracies or not, prefer the safety of a "peaceful and stable transition" to some romantic fantasy of regime change.
But once the long mourning period passes, once the leadership surrounding Kim Jong-un is clearer, diplomats around the world will have to get to work.
Ironically, Kim Jong-il died as American and North Korean negotiators were reaching an agreement in which the West agreed to unblock food aid in exchange for North Korea's abandoning its enriched uranium program and agreeing to the return of UN inspectors.
But the progress toward restarting the six-party negotiations (among both Koreas, China, Japan, Russia and the US), which were at a standstill since 2008, is now frozen following Kim Jong-il's death. The US will now be waiting for a sign from Pyongyang.
One can hope for a Myanmar scenario, where new leaders just a tad more liberal than their predecessors would decide to open their bunker in hopes of diversifying their international support, and become less dependent on China. But for now, these hopes must be scaled back.
China is clearly not going to give up its hold on its North Korean neighbor. Among those most immediately affected by regional stability, along with South Korea, Japan has handed the keys to China. The solution will therefore go through Beijing, a solution that could entail a North Korean version of the Chinese model, built upon a political dynasty and state capitalism. The US understand these constraints. But in looking for an alternative to the failed sanctions policy, Washington shouldn't give up too quickly on promoting the ideas that unexpectedly made their way through in Myanmar.
Read the original article from in French
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