October 17, 2014
Manning: The North Korea Conundrum
OK, mystery solved. No coup, no death, the boy general, Kim Jong Un, is back, albeit with a cane and of dubious health. But how much does it matter?
The North Korean government in Pyongyang is still mainly up to its old tricks, feigning cooperation as top leaders show up in Seoul, South Korea, seeking dialogue, yet at the same time firing shots at balloons crossing the Demilitarized Zone, exchanging fire with South Korean frigates at sea and upgrading missile launch facilities.
Yet in recent weeks, it has also pursued something of a "charm offensive." Pyongyang’s most proactive diplomacy in many years was highlighted by the visit to Seoul earlier this month by a group of top North Korean officials, led by Gen. Hwang Pyong So, vice chairman of the country's National Defense Commission, and believed to be Kim’s number two. They used the closing ceremonies of the Asian Games to suggest new North-South talks.Then there has also been some serious globe-trotting by Foreign Minister Ri Su Yong who toured Southeast Asia, Ethiopia and then on to Iran and Russia. Note that he carefully avoided countries likely to push him on Pyongyang’s nuclear weapons program.