North Korea: The Pot Still Boiling

Commentary
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38 NORTH

North Korea: The Pot Still Boiling

The debate roiling the leadership in Pyongyang is in its fourth week and appears to have heated up. That the Chinese leader Xi Jinping should go to North Korea in the middle of this tense situation is extraordinary and suggests a level of concern that the situation in Pyongyang is close to getting out of hand. At the same time, the visit could also be a calculated effort by Kim Jong Un to pull in heavy artillery to defend his position.

Both sides of the debate have used the party daily Rodong Sinmun to advance their positions. Those who are on the attack (for convenience we’ll call them the “orthodox” forces) appear to have the upper hand in that regard, having published two very lengthy, high-level “special articles” on the front page of the paper over the past several weeks (May 20 and June 12). By contrast, those forces—for want of a better term, the “loyalists”—on the other side of the debate appear, so far, forced to defend their position indirectly, without forthrightly pushing back or laying out their case.

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