Deception in North Korea

The following editorial appeared in the Kansas City Star:

North Korea’s new leader served up a surprise during recent celebrations of his grandfather’s 100th birthday. At a massive military parade, Kim Jong Un spoke for 20 minutes in a speech broadcast live across the country. It was a dramatic departure from the habit of his father, whose voice wasn’t heard by the populace until he shouted a one-line exhortation into a microphone at a 1992 parade.

But if anyone expected the country’s youthful dictator to pursue a new approach, they were disappointed. Kim said his “first, second and third” priorities would be to make the military stronger. In his remarks, he perpetuated the illusion that North Korea was a rising power by proclaiming that military technology was no longer “monopolized by imperialists.”

Not mentioned was the country’s recent attempt to launch a satellite into orbit, and what that failure suggested about the real state of the North’s technological capacity.

Nor did Kim mention that the decision to launch — in defiance of earlier pledges not to test long-range missiles — prompted Washington to terminate plans for a round of food aid to the famine-weakened country.

Before his accession to power, some analysts had wondered whether Kim Jong Un might chart a course to ease North Korea’s severe isolation and the poverty of its people.

He was, after all, educated in Switzerland, where he was a fan of NBA star Michael Jordan. But published reports say he was a poor student who spent much of his time playing computer games and basketball.

In the third century, a dying Roman emperor advised his successor to see to the care of the soldiers first, to ensure they would see to the care of the emperor’s power. Unfortunately, the young Kim seems determined to do the same, no matter what the cost to those whose sacrifices pay the bill.

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