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Beijing Holds The Key To North Korea

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

Kim Jong-il's snowy funeral (RT video)
Kim Jong-il's snowy funeral (RT video)

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

Photo - RT video

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FOCUS: Russia-Ukraine War

How Vulnerable Are The Russians In Crimea?

Ukraine has stepped up attacks on the occupied Crimean peninsula, and Russia is doing all within its power to deny how vulnerable it has become.

Photograph of the Russian Black Sea Fleet headquarters with smoke rising above it after a Ukrainian missile strike.

September 22, 2023, Sevastopol, Crimea, Russia: Smoke rises over the Russian Black Sea Fleet headquarters after a Ukrainian missile strike.

Kyrylo Danylchenko

This article was updated Sept. 26, 2023 at 6:00 p.m.

Russian authorities are making a concerted effort to downplay and even deny the recent missile strikes in Russia-occupied Crimea.

Stay up-to-date with the latest on the Russia-Ukraine war, with our exclusive international coverage.

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Media coverage in Russia of these events has been intentionally subdued, with top military spokesperson Igor Konashenkov offering no response to an attack on Russian Black Sea Fleet headquarters in the Crimean city of Sevastopol, or the alleged downing last week of Russian Su-24 aircraft by Ukrainian Air Defense.

The response from this and other strikes on the Crimean peninsula and surrounding waters of the Black Sea has alternated between complete silence and propagating falsehoods. One notable example of the latter was the claim that the Russian headquarters building of the Black Sea fleet that was hit Friday was empty and that the multiple explosions were mere routine training exercises.

Ukraine claimed on Monday that the attack killed Admiral Viktor Sokolov, the commander of Russia's Black Sea Fleet. "After the strike on the headquarters of the Russian Black Sea Fleet, 34 officers died, including the commander of the Russian Black Sea Fleet. Another 105 occupiers were wounded. The headquarters building cannot be restored," the Ukrainian special forces said via Telegram.

But Sokolov was seen on state television on Tuesday, just one day after Ukraine claimed he'd been killed. The Russian Defense Ministry released footage of the admiral partaking in a video conference with top admirals and chiefs, including Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu, though there was no verification of the date of the event.

Moscow has been similarly obtuse following other reports of missiles strikes this month on Crimea. Russian authorities have declared that all missiles have been intercepted by a submarine and a structure called "VDK Minsk", which itself was severely damaged following a Ukrainian airstrike on Sept. 13. The Russians likewise dismissed reports of a fire at the headquarters of the Black Sea Fleet, attributing it to a mundane explosion caused by swamp gas.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov has refrained from commenting on the military situation in Crimea and elsewhere, continuing to repeat that everything is “proceeding as planned.”

Why is Crimea such a touchy topic? And why is it proving to be so hard to defend?

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