The thing about North Korea is that once in a while, it does something that sends the international community into a flurry of talk about the hermit nation, even though little is known about what’s really going on.
This week, Pyongyang fired a long-range Unha-3 rocket and sent a satellite into orbit. Nervous world leaders quivered as the rogue country defied a United Nations ban on developing nuclear- and missile-related technology.
Was the world a more dangerous place after Wednesday’s event? What would it mean for North Korea’s young leader as he is about to mark the first anniversary of the death of his father, Kim Jong Il?
When the son ascended to power, concerns surfaced over an inexperienced, mysterious heir taking charge of North Korea’s nuclear weapons program, its hardcore and cultish communist society and a population of the hungry.
His eldest half brother said in his book that he was concerned Kim Jong Un would fail to satisfy North Koreans.
Now, the new “Dear Leader” can claim not just a public relations victory but also a tangible accomplishment as he prepared for Monday’s anniversary of Kim Jong Il’s death.
Amid the dearth of information, one thing was clear: Kim Jong Un can now stand proud before his people on that big day.
“The question is what does Kim Jong Un intend? said Leon Sigal, director of the Northeast Asia Cooperative Security Project at the Social Science Research Council in New York.
“It’s been an interesting first year but as with most things in North Korea, we simply don’t know,” he said.
Few nuclear experts saw the launch as a tremendous technological advancement, but the perceptions were great and gave Kim a big boost in clout. He can say he fulfilled a promise that has kept his family dynasty in power for decades; that the nation’s persistence to move on — despite international isolation and internal hardship — has paid off.
In that sense, the satellite launch was proof of progress and power, said Bill Richardson, the former U.S. ambassador to the United Nations who traveled to North Korea in 2010.
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