Tuesday, 12 February 2013

Like Father, Like Son

With the death of North Korea's Kim Jong-il last year, we had hoped for signs of warmth and reconciliation with his successor, the young Kim Jong-un.

The new leader gave a few hints of his personality, smiling and waving to the people, hugging soldiers and at times showing off his lady friend, or is that his wife?

And then most recently there were rumours he had plastic surgery to make his facial features more like his grandfather's, the venerable Kim Il-sung.

So we were shocked to hear North Korea confirmed its third nuclear test just before noon today Hong Kong time, as the after effects detected a 4.9 magnitude earthquake in a country that is not prone to quakes.

The official KCNA news agency said the DPRK used a "miniaturized and lighter nuclear device with greater explosive force than previously" and that the test "did not pose any negative impact on the surrounding ecological environment."

There are concerns that if confirmed, the test proves North Korea has significantly improved on its nuclear capabilities since 2009, and where and how it was able to accrue or develop a weapon of this kind.

Needless to say there has been worldwide condemnation of the test and everyone is looking to China to do something.

While Beijing said it is "resolutely opposed" to the test, the Chinese government called for "all sides to cope with this situation calmly, through talks and negotiations within the framework of the Six Party Talks to solve the problems of denuclearization."

The response was rather pathetic, unless Chinese Communist Party leader Xi Jinping is trying to exert his influence through diplomatic channels.

Chinese state media encouraged the government to punish North Korea and one wonders if Xi will take its advice.

Former President Hu Jintao seemed for the most part to let the DPRK flex its muscles, but we will all be watching to see how Xi handles this hot potato.

Meanwhile we can only guess this test is a way for Kim Jong-un to prove himself as a leader, thought to be only 29 years old and we now know he's a smoker and has a smartphone.

His father used to threaten the region with nuclear war and China would placate him with food aid and money. Kim Jong-il's sabre rattling became more like "cry wolf", though for the most part he did get what he wanted.

We can only imagine Kim Jong-un is using the same tactic, but for what?

In any event, how China and the United States react to this latest test will give us clues on what kind of a leader we're dealing with -- a maverick or a copy of his father.

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