North Korea's leader still a mystery
October 24th, 2012
05:24 PM ET

North Korea's leader still a mystery

By Chris Lawrence

The United States and South Korea still have no clear insight on the new leader of North Korea, Kim Jong Un, nearly a year after he replaced his father.

"We still don't know whether or not he will follow in the footsteps of his father, or whether he represents a different kind of leadership for the future," U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta admitted Wednesday.

Panetta made the comment at a news conference on Wednesday after security talks with his South Korean counterpart. The meetings included discussion of North Korea's young leader, who succeeded his father, Kim Jong Il, after his death in 2011.

South Korean Defense Minister Kim Kwan-jin said the actual regime "seems to be quite stable," and there is hope Kim Jong Un would "try to introduce new economic reform measures to make a better life for the people" of North Korea.

But the defense minister admitted he was also unsure what path North Korea's leader would take, and he warned that given Kim Jong Un's young age, it could mean bolder actions by the North Korean government. He described Kim as "young, meaning he may be a lot more aggressive compared to old people." Kim is believed to be 29.

Panetta once again called North Korea "defiant and provocative," as he has before, and said he was concerned over its plans to conduct a third nuclear weapons test.

Kim Kwan-jin added that North Korea has been making preparations for this third test "for quite a long time." Although he did not say Pyongyang had decided to proceed, he added "it may in fact resort to this third nuclear test."

Speaking with Kim Kwan-jin by his side, Panetta said, "North Korea remains a threat to both of our nations, and a serious threat to regional and global stability."

He accused the Pyongyang of defying international rules by continuing to enrich uranium. North Korea conducted nuclear tests in 2006 and 2009 but has not conducted a test this year despite its threats.

A defense official added that the United States also believes North Korea has been making ongoing preparations for another long-range missile test at some point, although he said it does not appear imminent.

Earlier this month, the United States agreed to allow South Korea to extend the range of its ballistic missiles. Previously, South Korea had been limited to a range under 200 miles. Now it will be able to possess missiles that can fly 500 miles.

The expansion allows South Korea to place its missiles much farther away from Pyongyang's artillery, while essentially putting all of North Korea within its range.

Panetta noted that North Korea's actions are "one of the purposes of rebalancing to the Pacific region," referring to the U.S. military's future concentration in Asia. He also announced that the United States and South Korea had signed an agreement for bilateral military space cooperation. He said it establishes a U.S.-South Korea working group to address space policy, training and exchanging personnel.

"Mr. Kim and I agreed on the need to strengthen cooperation with respect to protection of space and cyberspace domains. We must ensure this alliance stays ahead of cyberthreats," Panetta said.

There are almost 30,000 American troops stationed in South Korea near the border. This was the fourth time Panetta and Kim have met.

soundoff (18 Responses)
  1. Gemma

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    February 6, 2014 at 5:14 am | Reply
  2. komododr

    North Korea leadership is just following the old cliche' that at first or second, or third if you don't succeed, try, try, and try again, LOL.

    November 9, 2012 at 10:29 pm | Reply
  3. DeAnna

    Reblogged this on Crossing the line.

    October 28, 2012 at 1:00 pm | Reply
  4. joseph mccarthy is a fool

    move somewhere else.. you are anti american

    October 25, 2012 at 9:40 am | Reply
  5. chris

    If you just stop talking about him he will go away. You should do this for a list of people including the kardashian's (for example) because they don't do anything.....

    October 24, 2012 at 10:34 pm | Reply
  6. Daph18

    I hope Kim has the knowledge to know that he can make a solid impact on the people of his Country. Then his people won't be forced to honor him.

    October 24, 2012 at 10:23 pm | Reply
  7. Joseph McCarthy

    Hopefully this new leader will go to the U.N. and work out a deal there similar to the one South Africa did, that is to have nuclear power but not to build nuclear weapons. If South Africa can do it, then why not North Korea and Iran? North Korea needs to overcome it's severe shortage of electrical energy.

    October 24, 2012 at 8:19 pm | Reply
    • Bruceben9

      because the leaders of nk and iran are mentally damaged. much worse than the u.s. or other western nations. just look at their societies and oppression of their citizens. HELLO!

      October 24, 2012 at 9:42 pm | Reply
      • Joseph McCarthy

        Gee Bruceben9, are they truly any worse than our own politicins in Washington? Somehow I don't think so! It is the politicians in Washington who get us into all these obnoxious wars and not them! Get serious, will you?

        October 25, 2012 at 8:33 am |

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