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Thursday, March 1, 2012

Nuclear Freeze in North Korea?

Earlier this year one of the world's most despised dictators Kim Jong Il passed away leaving his son Kim Jong Un to take his place. Little is known of the country's new leader, he is thought to be in his late 20s and is the youngest son of the late Supreme Leader, who himself inherited the title from his own father in 1994.  The edited footage of the funeral ceremony viewed in the West was a rare glimpse into the seldom seen North Korean society, even if it was a highly staged and orchestrated one.

However, as the memory of the former Supreme Leader faded the world wondered how the young incumbent would deal with power and more importantly the perceived nuclear ambitions of his country. Having been inundated with fresh sanctions following nuclear tests in 2009 the country revealed its ambitions to enrich uranium to a visiting delegation of Americans in 2010.

The threat of a nuclear armed North Korea (DPRK) is not one to be taken lightly. The country remains unofficially at war with its southern neighbour and tensions show no signs of being eased any time soon. It has also been ruthless in criticising Japan in a conflict dating back to Japan's former occupations of the Korean pennincula. Finally, the US has always been a firm supporter of the South Korean people, since the Korean War. All of this major world powers stand to lose something if a the new leader sought it right to fulfill the promise of the nuclear North Korea promised by his father.

US Secretary of State- Hillary Clinton
There was a noticeable sigh of relief then when the US and North Korea in joint announcements yesterday announced a deal for increased US food aid to the DPRK (a nation consistently teetering on the brink of famine) in exchange for a suspension of the country's uranium enrichment program and a halt to long term nuclear ambitions by the nation.

While it may seem like a great leap forward in the effort to prevent the country from attaining such devasting weapons many political leaders are remaining cautious. Hillary Clinton called the move a "modest step in the right direction" and a spokesman for the Japanese Government has said it is necessary to follow these words with action.  North Korea has a history of failing to meet its international expectations and in the words of Sarah Palin "going rogue".  It remains to be seen if the change in leadership can effect lasting change for a people who have suffered in the bubble of the DPRK.

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