N.Korea's Grandstanding 'Suggests Internal Power Struggle'

      May 22, 2009 07:43

      North Korea's recent grandstanding may be motivated by internal power struggles over who is to succeed ailing leader Kim Jong-il, Korean and U.S. diplomats speculate.

      In an interview with VOA on Wednesday, Scott Snyder, the director of the Center for U.S.-Korea Policy at the Asia Foundation, said the internal situation in North Korea is ominous and recent actions including the launch of a long-range rocket seem to have something to do with the succession question. There are opinions that for want of a properly prepared heir apparent, one of Kim's sons will end up as a figurehead for one or the other power group in the North.

      A senior South Korean government official on Thursday said, "We understand that recent acts by North Korea are not actually messages for the U.S., as we believed during the early days of the Obama administration."

      North Korea launched a long-range rocket, arrested two female American journalists, boycotted the six-party talks on its nuclear program and threatened another nuclear test despite the Obama administration's expression of willingness to talk.

      "In the past, North Korea took a flexible attitude toward South Korea when it was at loggerheads with the U.S.; and when it was at odds with the South, the North adopted a strategy of seeking dialogue with the U.S. But in recent days, the North has taken a rough stance toward both," a diplomatic source said. "The North doesn't seem to have made any calculations but appears to be in some other trouble."

      And that concerns Kim's ill health and the issue of his succession, experts speculate. After his stroke last year, the question of the succession, for which no preparations had been made, suddenly came to the fore. As a result, it appears that the hardline military seized all the power it could and stoked international tensions to keep society under control.

      That also suggests that a softening of the North's position is for the time being unlikely.

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