Kim Jong-il celebrates successful visit to Russia and China

30 08 2011

North Korean leader Kim Jong-il attended a banquet to congratulate him on his successful recent visits to Russia and China, the North’s state media said Monday.  The banquet was hosted by his son, Kim Jong-eun, on behalf of the Central Military Commission of the ruling Workers’ Party and the National Defense Commission.

Radio Free Asia has asked me to share opinion on the following issues:

RFA: Why do you think Kim Jong-il made a stopover at China?

LP: On his way back from Russia, Kim Jong-il spent a night in the northeastern city of Hulunbeier, China’s Inner Mongolia, after arriving from the eastern Siberian city of Ulan-Ude. Then Kim Jong Il visited northeast China’s Heilongjiang Province on Friday at the company of Chinese State Councillor Dai Bingguo.

In a meeting with Kim, Dai, conveyed sincere greetings from President Hu Jintao to Kim and welcomed Kim on behalf of the CPC, the Chinese government and people. Kim thanked China’s warm hospitality and conveyedhis sincere greetings to Hu. Dai said that after an interval of three months, Kim visited China again that fully demonstrated the high attention attached by Kim to the consolidation and growth of China-DPRK ties. “Along with DPRK comrades, we are willing to earnestlyimplement important consensus reached by the top leaders of our two countries andpromote the continuous growth of our ties,” Dai said.

Kim said China and DPRK are close neighbors and should have frequent contacts. “Every time I visited China, I can feel the friendly affections from the Chinese people tothe Korean people,” he said. He spoke highly of the development momentum of current China-DPRK ties. Bilateralexchanges and cooperation should be enhanced between different departments andlocalities of the two countries in various areas, he said. During his stay in Heilongjiang, Kim visited the cities of Qiqihar and Daqing. In Qiqihar, Kim toured Qier Machine Tool Group Co., a large state-owned enterprise, and Mengniu Dairy, a leading Chinese dairy producer. In Daqing, he toured an urban planningexhibition hall and a residential district. “I’ve seen new changes every time I came here,” Kim Jong-il said. He wished that China would smoothly realize the goals set in its 12th Five-year Plan under the leadership of the CPC.

RFA: Also why he didn’t bring his son, Kim Jong-eun?

LP: North Korean leader Kim Jong-il’s heir apparent son, Kim Jong-eun, was on standby during his father’s trip to Russia and China because the joint ROK-US military drill Ulchi Freedom Guardian was continuing on the peninsula. The joint training of 56 thousand South Korean and 30 thousand US American troops kept North Korean leadership alerted. Since Kim Jong-eun is the Vice-chair of the KWP Military Committee, his presence in the country was symbolically important during the absence of his father, the Chairman of National Defence Committee, and Kim Yong-Chun, Minister of the People’s Armed Forces.

RFA: How do you view the impact of  Kim’s summit with Russian President Medvedev?

LP: The rare summit between North Korean leader Kim Jong-il and Russian President Dmitry Medvedev became a very important step toward resuming the long-stalled nuclear disarmament talks with the North. Russia and North Korea also moved forward on a proposal to build a pipeline that will ship Russian natural gas to both Koreas. Simultaneously, North Korea and Russia signed a protocol calling for economic cooperation between the two countries. Last Friday, a Russian economic delegation, led by Minister of Regional Development Viktor Basargin, was in North Korea to sign “a protocol of the 5th Meeting of the DPRK-Russia Intergovernmental Committee for Cooperation in Trade, Economy, Science and Technology,”

La Corée du Nord tenterait d’assouplir son image sur le dossier nucléaire pour obtenir une aide économique

29 08 2011

(Philippe Pons, Le Monde 28/08/2011) A la suite de sa visite en Sibérie, le dirigeant nord-coréen Kim Jong-il est passé, jeudi 25 août, en Chine du Nord-Est à bord de son train blindé. Selon l’agence Chine nouvelle, il doit faire dans cette région une « escale » sur le « chemin du retour ». Il n’a pas été précisé s’il aura des entretiens avec des dirigeants chinois.

Plusieurs projets de développement économiques conjoints entre la Chine et la République populaire démocratique de Corée (RPDC) sont en cours dans la région frontalière. C’est la quatrième visite en un an de Kim Jong-il en Chine.

D’éventuels entretiens avec les dirigeants chinois pourraient néanmoins apporter des éclaircissements sur les déclarations de Kim Jong-il en Russie. Selon la porte-parole du président Medvedev, celui-ci s’est déclaré prêt à une reprise sans conditions des pourparlers à six (Chine, deux Corées, Etats-Unis, Japon et Russie) sur la dénucléarisation de la RPDC et a proposé un moratoire sur les essais de missiles et les tests atomiques. […]

Une proposition trop vague

Selon Paik Haksoon, chercheur à l’Institut Sejong de Séoul, « le moratoire proposé par Pyongyang n’est pas le moratoire demandé par Séoul, Tokyo ou Washington comme préalable à une reprise des pourparlers, mais un élément de la négociation elle-même. Il n’en ouvre pas moins une fenêtre dans le processus de reprise de celle-ci ».

L’agence nord-coréenne de presse, KCNA, n’a pas mentionné la proposition de moratoire. Mais « le fait qu’elle a été annoncée au président Medvedev accroît sa crédibilité », estime Leonid Petrov, spécialiste de la RPDC à l’Université de Sydney. Séoul et Washington estiment que la proposition nord-coréenne est trop vague pour constituer « un progrès substantiel ». La question nucléaire nord-coréenne s’est encore compliquée depuis que le régime a annoncé, à la fin de l’année dernière, s’être doté, en plus de sa filière à base de plutonium, d’un programme d’enrichissement de l’uranium.

La Corée du Sud et les Etats-Unis craignent que Pyongyang ne veuille reprendre les négociations que pour obtenir une aide économique, dont le régime a impérieusement besoin. Kim Jong-il a promis qu’en 2012 – année du centième anniversaire de la naissance de son père, Kim Il-sung (mort en 1994) -, la RPDC entrera dans une nouvelle ère : celle d’un « pays fort et prospère ».

N. Korea Pledges Return to Nuke Talks

26 08 2011

 (Russia Today TV 24 Aug. 2011) North Korea is ready to return to the Six-Party negotiation table unconditionally and to do so, Kim Jong-il promised his country will impose moratorium on nuclear testing and nuclear weapons production. Presidential Press Secretary Natalia Timakova announced these results of the meeting on Wednesday.

Russian President Dmitry Medvedev and his North Korean counterpart have met in the secluded military compound Sosnovy Bor (Pine Wood) on the outskirts of the capital of Republic of Buryatia, Ulan-Ude. The talks lasted for two hours and ten minutes.The leaders shook hands for protocol photos in the presence of press, then proceeded to negotiate behind closed doors. Few results were announced once the negotiations were over, including little information about the topics of discussion.

Surely, tense topics have been discussed during the meeting. Most likely the talks were focused on Six-Party Talks: North Korea withdrew from the Six-Party Talks (which include North and South Koreas, Russia, China, US and Japan) and continued with its nuclear experiments, defiant in its continuation of its nuclear program, predictably causing outrage not only within the Six Parties, but the whole of the international community.

The leaders reportedly agreed also to work together on a trilateral gas-supply project involving South Korea. President Medvedev announced he has set up a governmental committee which is to deal with this gas pipe-line transit project. He also assigned Alexey Miller, the head of Russia’s Gazprom, to “closely deal” with his counterparts in North and South Korea. The gas transit through the territory of DPRK is a very perspective project for the South Korean consumers, and for North Korea as well, Dmitry Medvedev stated after his meeting with Kim Jong-il. The project plans to cover an estimated 1,100 kilometers of pipelines and will have a capacity of 10 billion cubic meters of gas a year. […]

­Eric Sirotkin, a co-founder of the National Campaign to End the Korean War, says Russia is in the perfect position to play a mediator role between North and South Korea. “Because of [Russia’s] closer relationship with the United States over the past years, because of the fact they are not seen as allied with North Korea as China,” he said. “Someone has to, as a world leader, stand up and say ‘This war has gone on for 60 years. There has been a change. The Cold War has ended, folks.’”

The fact that after nearly 10 years the leader of reclusive North Korea visits Russia and meets President Medvedev can only mean that something is changing – either inside North Korea or in Russia’s relation with it, considers Leonid Petrov, a lecturer in Korean Studies at the University of Sydney. The problem now is that North Korea has expressed a readiness to return to negotiating table and exchange something – probably its nuclear program – for some sort of aid, whereas the other parties of the Six-Side talks are reluctant to do so. “Probably it is time to restore balance between North Korea’s relations with Russia and China,” Petrov believes. In any case, “for Kim-Jong-il this is a good PR exercise to make sure that people still believe him,” Petrov said.

We Need to Engage with North Korea

18 08 2011

by Danielle Chubb (The Australian, August 18, 2011)

THIS week marks the 66th anniversary of Korean independence. And yet while the peninsula may no longer be a colonial outpost, it is still divided and the ongoing existence of the DPRK regime continues to pose a potent security risk to northeast Asia.

The fact is, as Foreign Affairs Minister Kevin Rudd (quoted by Peter Alford in “Australia may be nuclear target: Kevin Rudd”, The Australian, July 23) and Greg Sheridan (“North Korea poised for nuclear weapon test next year”, The Australian, August 16) have reminded us, North Korea is a dangerous and belligerent state.

Usually cited as northeast Asia’s biggest wildcard and most unpredictable security threat, it is a country that is continuously cast in the role of a wildly irrational and dangerous international outcast. In the words of Sheridan, a nuclear weapons test next year by the DPRK “will bring us much closer to the day when North Korean nuclear weapons could threaten Australia”.

The reality, of course, is rather more complex. Useful and creative policymaking does not start with arousing public angst about a far-off and unlikely scenario that most serious security analysts do not even begin to entertain.

This type of scaremongering speaks to an unhelpful paradigm of conflict that has so far failed to convince North Korea to either disarm or to attend to a regime of non-proliferation. The security situation in northeast Asia remains fraught, and the unstable and tightly sealed North Korean hermit state continues to survive against all the odds. But a direct threat to Australia? Hardly.

Generally, given the nation’s status as an international sovereign state of mystery, journalists tend to veer away from the subject of North Korea. When it does hit the media, we are usually treated to what we are told are rare glimpses “behind the curtain” – photographs of North Korean people in the cities and countryside taken during heavily monitored tours.

These images reveal to the world that North Koreans are indeed real people who attend markets and go on picnics, who sing traditional songs at the Children’s Palace, enjoy soccer, eat, drink and laugh together and even ride bicycles to their place of employment. It should not come as a surprise to us that these people exist. And yet it does, precisely because North Korea is generally portrayed as the great unknowable.

On the other hand, we receive reports of a country run by madmen, who pose a real security risk, not just to neighbouring Japan and South Korea, but also to the US territories of Alaska and Hawaii and even northern Australia.

The fact US Northern Command believes the Taepodong-2 rocket is incapable of reaching US territory (let alone Australia) notwithstanding, the North Korean nuclear crisis is seen as evidence of a government whose goals and ambitions seem insusceptible to usual diplomatic routes, run as it is by a man with whom one can clearly not negotiate. Rather than reminding ourselves of the many ways in which North Korea is different to us, we need to begin our conversations with a recognition of what we have in common. Yes, North Korea deserves our condemnation. However, recent history shows us that treating North Korea as an exceptional case has not served us well.

We have had a string of policy failures and little progress has been made towards either disarmament or non-proliferation. It is time to move past the notion that treating North Korea as a legitimate negotiating partner is akin to a form of appeasement.

Our Foreign Minister, rather than describing the North Koreans as “detached from reality”, as he did during the July ASEAN Regional Forum in Bali, would do well to start talking about lifting the visa ban that prevents North Koreans from coming to Australia for cultural and educational programs. Calling a country’s policies “irrational” is actually an admission that we don’t understand their rationale.

Such understanding is gained through interaction, not isolation. There are no quick fixes to the “North Korea conundrum” and moral posturing will not get us far. On the back of spectacular policy failure after spectacular policy failure, it is time to look with new eyes at this country that sits in the centre of northeast Asia.

Australia needs to open its doors to North Korean citizens and government employees, for it is not until we recognise that North Korea is a state made up of real people with real fears about their national security (well-founded or not) that we will be able to come some way to crafting a more intelligent and innovative response to the North Korea nuclear crisis and eventually achieve the end goal of a nuclear-free Asia.

* Danielle Chubb is Vasey Research Fellow at Pacific Forum CSIS and spent three weeks in Pyongyang in 2007. Her book, Contentious Activism and Inter-Korean Relations, will be published next year

KOFFIA is back in Sydney

16 08 2011

The Korean Film Festival in Australia (KOFFIA) first began in October of 2010 and was the inaugural festival of its kind. KOFFIA is back for a 2nd edition in 2011 and will take place in both Sydney and Melbourne. The festival is organised by the Korean Cultural Office, with support from the Consulate-General of the Republic of Korea in Sydney.
It aims to:
– Generate an interest in Korean Cinema within the local community.
– Raise the understanding of the aesthetics of Korean films throughout the community.
– Share the virtues of Korean Culture and Tradition.
– Provide support and give opportunity to aspiring Korean filmmakers residing in Australia.
– Develop relations with Australian artists.

KOFFIA MEDIA FORUM / Discussion on “J.S.A Joint Security Area”, “Secret Reunion”, “The Journals of Musan”

DATE: Sun 28th Aug 2011 (4:00pm – 4:30pm)
Venue: Dendy Opera Quays, Sydney
Dr. Leonid Petrov (Korean Studies Lecturer, University of Sydney)
Dr. Jane Park (Gender and Cultural Studies, University of Sydney)

TOPIC: Korean War in Films
The Korean War in Korean cinema has always been one of the most prolifically recurring themes. This year at KOFFIA there are three films deals with the Korean War directly as well as indirectly. Leonid Petrov and Jane Park, from their own respective academic background, will share their own insights about the theme of the Korean War in Korean cinema with the audience.

The Journals of Musan (2010)

127min, HD Cam, 2.35:1
Directed by PARK Jung-bum
Keywords: Drama, North Korea, Award Winning, Based on a true story
Cast: PARK Jung-bum, JIN Yong-ok, KANG Eun-jin

The award winning realistic depiction of a North Korean south of the border. Seung-chul is a North Korean defector now living in Seoul. He is constantly stigmatized as his identification number gives him away to the local people. His personality does not help either, he seems neither smart nor particularly strong-willed and his introverted nature beings to clash with his Seoul surroundings. Changes creep in slowly and secretly, as his new home lacks the freedom it promised.

The Journals of Musan has garnered, so far, 14 awards at various international film festivals including Busan, Tribeca and Rotterdam. This independent film is simply a tour de force. PARK Jung-bum not only produced and directed the picture, but also performed as the protagonist in the film. The film is dedicated his late-friend JEON Seung-chul, a North Korean defector who died of cancer and who he was inspired by to create the film.

This is PARK Jung-bums 1st feature film, having previously worked as an assistant director to Lee Chang-dong on Poetry (2010) and being a keen observer of all of Lee’s films. What results is a unique point of view of an often not talked about situation. A must see of KOFFIA 2011!

Screening Schedule:
26th August / 10:00am @ Dendy Cinemas, Sydney
27th August / 4:30pm @ Dendy Cinemas, Sydney

Secret Reunion (2010)

116min, 35mm, 2.35:1
Directed by JANG Hun
Keywords: Thriller, Espionage, Buddy Comedy, Box-office hit
Cast: SONG Kang-ho, KANG Dong-won, JEON Gook-hwan, KO Chang-seok

A Korean buddy action comedy like never before! Agent Lee (SONG Kang-ho) was once one of the top National Intelligence Agents in Korea, however he soon falls from grace as a High Profile case goes bad. A North Korea spy Ji-won (KANG Dong-won) gets marked as a traitor in the same incident as neither side got the result they were after. 6 years later, the two outcasts stumble across each other and form an unlikely partnership in order to steal information from the other. .

Awarded Best Film at the 31st Blue Dragon Film Awards, Secret Reunion was the 2nd highest grossing film at the 2010 Korean Box office behind only The Man From Nowhere. JANG Hun had been known mostly for his assistant directing work to Kim Ki-duk on the likes of Time (2006) and The Bow (2005). That was of course before his feature debut, last years KOFFIA 2010 hit film, Rough Cut (2008). Even bigger and better things are expected from Jang Hun’s 3rd feature currently in theatres, Battle of the Hills.

Screening Schedule:
25th August / 6:00pm @ Dendy Cinemas, Sydney
29th August / 10:00am @ Dendy Cinemas, Sydney
12th September / 8:15pm @ ACMI Cinemas, Sydney

J.S.A. Joint Security Area (2000)

110min, 35mm, 2.35:1
Directed by PARK Chan-wook
Keywords: Drama, War, North South Relations, Classic
Cast: SONG Kang-ho, LEE Young-ae, LEE Byung-hun, SHIN Ha-kyun

Simply one of best Korean films of all time, see it on the big screen! At the DMZ, one South Korean soldier kills two North Korean soldiers. The international investigation begins as to find out exactly how this happened, but everyone who is related to the incident tells a different and contradictory story. The truth is shelled in four soldiers from the South as well as North.

The vengeance trilogy may be PARK Chan-wook’s most widely known works, but JSA is the film where his career really took off. Featuring an all star cast of SONG Kang-ho (Thirst), LEE Young-ae (Sympathy for Lady Vengeance), LEE Byung-hun (I Saw the Devil) and SHIN Ha-kyun (Sympathy for Mr Vengeance), it is a must see for all Korean film fans!

Screening Schedule:
28th August / 2:00pm @ Dendy Cinemas, Sydney
11th September / 6:15pm @ ACMI Cinemas, Sydney

Brian Myers: Korea’s most dangerous writer?

11 08 2011

By Andrew Salmon (SEOUL, Aug. 10  Yonhap)  He may be the most influential intellectual writer from the Korean Peninsula, but he is not Korean. He is obscure among domestic Pyongyang watchers but writes about North Korea for some of the world’s most influential media.

He is Brian Myers, an American who teaches international studies at Dongseo University in the southern port city of Busan. An academic, author and columnist, he contributes to The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal and The Atlantic. It’s his status as an iconoclast that has won him fame. “I come across orthodoxies that I think need challenging,” he said in a recent interview. “But I’m not a full-time contrarian.”

The first group to feel the sting of Myers’ pen was America’s bookish establishment: He slammed the pretensions of the literary fiction community with “A Reader’s Manifesto” in 2002. He went on to redefine North Korea in his 2009 book “The Cleanest Race,” perhaps the most significant work on that country published since Kim Jong-il came to power. More recently, he has savaged a target closer to home: foodies.

Myers was born in New Jersey in 1963. The first “grown-up book” he remembers reading was Orwell’s “1984”; he went on to read Soviet studies in Germany. With the fall of European communism leaving him nothing to research, he relocated, after a few years in the auto industry, to Korea with his Korean wife.

Speaking with Myers, it is hard not to be impressed with his wide range of cultural references, his linguistic abilities and wicked intelligence — he bounces effortlessly from Cormac McCarthy to Kim Il-sung and speaks fluent German and Korean; one minute he is demolishing Korea’s emotive nationalists, next he is slamming war-mongering U.S. “chickenhawks.”

Naturally, the critic has critics. Salon criticized “A Reader’s Manifesto” as “a cranky lament”; Slate called it “bombastic” and sniffed at Myers as “a previously unpublished critic.” Conversely, The Times and The Washington Post hailed the work; many readers were delighted that someone was finally slaughtering the sacred cow.

No naysayers reared their heads over “The Cleanest Race,” albeit possibly because the English-speaking North Korea-watching community is a lot smaller than its literary community.

Based on Myers’s decade studying Pyongyang propaganda, it garnered rave reviews in The Economist, The Washington Post and The New York Times. Polemicist Christopher Hitchens called the book “electrifying” and admitted Myers had identified what he himself had overlooked.

The book overturned conventional wisdom: Myers portrays North Korea as neither a Stalinist nor even communist state; with its blend of arch-militarism and ultra-nationalism, it is essentially fascist. The book has been translated into French and Italian; Korean and Polish versions are in the works.

A more recent target — the subject of a Myers article in The Atlantic that generated a heated response from New York’s Village Voice — was foodies.

“You can’t get away from food talk,” he says. “Foodies tend to earn more, so they are worth more to advertisers, which is why dining sections of newspapers are expanding, while book pages are disappearing.” As a vegan himself, is Myers not trying to spoil others’ fun?

No, he argues, the issue goes beyond the personal. Food obsession is incompatible with attempts to fight obesity, and with millions of Indians and Chinese acquiring middle-class dining aspirations, it threatens environmental sustainability and animal rights.

“Raising more cows on open pastures or chicken on free-range farms is no solution,” he says. “We can’t sustain current levels of meat consumption without factory farms.”

Still, he does not plan a book on the issue, partly because he does not want to subject himself to a study of foodie writing. At present, he is translating a German novella into English, but his ever-critical eye remains firmly focused on the peninsula.

He is currently researching how pan-Korean nationalism undermines state patriotism in South Korea. Successive Seoul administrations have neglected to inculcate pride in the republic as a state entity, Myers says, instead equating it with the Korean race: “This is no problem when you have a nation state like Japan or Denmark, but is a problem when you have a state divided.”

This explains why, he continues, there were no mass protests against last year’s North Korean attacks. Moreover, the issue impacts beyond the strategic space: It also hinders South Korea’s globalization.

So Myers won’t be departing Korea quite yet? “I want to be here for unification,” he says, though he warns that it could be cataclysmic. “Ultra-nationalism is an appealing ideology — the Third Reich fought to the end, even sending their children into battle,” Myers muses. “We should not underestimate its appeal.”

That impression was reinforced on a trip he made to North Korea in June. Driving from Pyongyang to Wonsan on the country’s east coast, he was able to see rural villages up close. Yet despite their poverty, there was no sense of things falling apart.

“You get the impression of a nation that is still cohering,” he said. “It is not simply because of repression, but because the regime still manages to inspire people.”

Signs of progress on Korean peninsula

1 08 2011

(ABC24 TV, 1 August 2011)

There’s been something of a breakthrough in the long-standing impasse over North Korea’s nuclear weapons program. Pyongyang pulled out of the six-party talks on the issue more than two years ago and then let off another nuclear device. But after discussions between North and South Korea at the ASEAN foreign ministers’ meeting in Bali last week US secretary of state Hillary Clinton invited a high ranking official from Pyongyang to visit the United States to break the ice. Leonid Petrov lectures in Korean studies at the University of Sydney.

JIM MIDDLETON: How optimistic are you about this announcement?

LEONID PETROV: Well any dialogue, any conversation, meeting and encounter is a positive development in the current state of affairs for north-east Asia in general and inter-Korean relations, US-North Korean relations in particular.

The problem is that if the talks about talks lead us only to the six-party talks where North Korea is expected to disarm unilaterally, I don’t think that we should be very optimistic because on many occasions Pyongyang insisted that it is not going to disarm unilaterally.

North Korea is prepared to give up its nuclear program if the conditions are right. And among the conditions are the security assurance that North Korea is not going to be attacked, that no pre-emptive strike, no regime change is going to be exhorted upon this north-east Asian nation is going to be in place; as well as diplomatic recognition; as well as lifting of economic sanctions. That’s what North Korea is actually requesting in return for freezing and dismantling its nuclear program.

JIM MIDDLETON: The conditions that you see North Korea requiring from the United States if it were to abandon its nuclear weapons program, are they something that Washington might be willing to discuss with Pyongyang bilaterally? Is it also something that the Obama administration can sell to the US people with a presidential election looming?

LEONID PETROV: On many occasions the North Koreans called upon the United States to sign the peace treaty, to end the Korean War. The Clinton administration just before their tenure expired were prepared to even resume diplomatic relations with North Korea. Whether the Obama administration is ready go that far is not clear – probably not.

And your question is very legitimate. The Obama administration is facing major issues at home. As well as the major war that is going on in the Middle East and the withdrawal of troops from Afghanistan and Iraq is all overshadows the developments in north-east Asia. So North Korea – the importance of North Korea should not be over-estimated.

JIM MIDDLETON: What would be the attitude of the other participants in the six-party talks, especially China, if the United States were to address this bilaterally?

LEONID PETROV: Well bilateralism is something what worries all the parties, all neighbours of Koreans. Once North Koreans start talking bilaterally to the Americans, Chinese, Japanese and Russians immediately get worried and concerned. None of the parties want to lose anything as a result of bilateral and secretive negotiations between any parties. And that’s why the six-party talks format was introduced, just to avoid any major development. The status quo is something what all parties actually prefer more or less.

Although probably Russia is the only country which would genuinely would love to see Koreas reunify or at least peacefully co-exist. All other parties have their own conflicting agendas.

JIM MIDDLETON: A final question: Does North Korea have any reasons beyond the fact that it is desperately short of food and needs food aid, for agreeing to reopen discussions with the United States at this moment?

LEONID PETROV: North Korea is going through the succession transitional process where the top leader Kim Jong-il is obviously preparing the heir to rule the country sooner or later. It’s not going to happen soon, or at least as long as Kim Jong-il is alive. We know that difficult economic circumstances, the man-made and natural disasters which have been hitting North Korea for the last two decades left the population rather angry and desperate.

So some sort of major breakthrough in relations with the United States first of all would definitely be supportive and helpful for the current regime. And we know there is no elections, there is no democratic feedback from the, between the government and the population. But some positive news in improvement relations with the United States first of all would be very positive development for the regime, for the leaders.

And diplomatic recognition, security assurance and economic assistance from the United States is crucial for North Korea’s survival.

Read and watch this interview here…