N. Korea now even more unpredictable
North Korea's Kim Jong Il suffered a stroke in August but is reported to have recovered.
No regime is more mysterious and unpredictable than that of North Korea's Kim Jong Il, but reports that he suffered a stroke created concern that the country was on the brink of chaos. Kim appears to have recovered, but the possibility of such a vacuum in the near future should create international pressure for a planned succession.
Kim, 66, was glaringly absent from a parade on Tuesday to mark North Korea's 60th anniversary. South Korean officials learned that he had undergone surgery following a stroke in mid-August but had recovered enough to talk and walk.
North Korean founder Kim Il Sung died of heart failure in 1994 but had groomed son Kim Jong Il as his successor. However, none of Kim's three sons or his daughter have received such attention or are considered competent to take command of the communist state. One guess is that one of the sons will be chosen by top officials, perhaps military leaders, who will exercise power through him.
If Kim lives long enough, experts agree that he will step down from power in 2012, the 100th anniversary of his father's birth. High officials in the North Korean government are too timid to suggest to "Dear Leader" anything having to do regarding succession. China, which provides financial aid to the country, is in the best position to influence such a decision.
North Korea agreed early this year to abandon its nuclear weapons programs in return for economic aid from the United States and its allies. The regime reversed itself late last month, angry that it remained on the U.S. terrorist list. The question is who made that decision.
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