By Jamie Crawford
As an agreement for the United States to resume food aid to North Korea lies in tatters over the North's upcoming launch of a long-range rocket, there is a palpable sense of apprehension and anger over the launch in the reclusive regime's own backyard.
From South Korea to Japan and China, the Philippines, Russia and Australia, a varying chorus of anger and disappointment is being directed toward the Stalinist state in advance of the launch, expected later this month. The question now is what happens after the rocket leaves the launching pad.
By Larry Shaughnessy
U.S. military officials are anxiously awaiting North Korea's announced ballistic missile launch, which they described to Congress on Wednesday as part of the regime's "coercive strategy" to antagonize, provoke and then try to win concessions.
April 15 will mark the 100th anniversary of the birth of Kim Il Song, the founder of communist North Korea and the grandfather of the current North Korean leader, who has said there will be a missile launch around that date, in violation of numerous U.N. resolutions and the most recent agreement with the United States.
North Korea has designated the entire year of 2012 as a year of strength and prosperity in celebration of Kim Il Song's birthday.
By Jamie Crawford
As a late twenty-something with no formal military experience of his own takes the reins of power over a cadre of octogenarian generals and a one-million man plus military, North Korea watchers are somewhat divided over the direction Kim Jong Un will ultimately take the hermetic country.
The North's propoganda machine is already in full rallying mode. A New Year's Day message released by the official Korean Central News Agency vowed to stand behind the new leader and defend him "unto death."
For its part, the United States is waiting for the new regime to make the next move. Any decision on moving forward with discussions over issues such as food aid and their nuclear program will have to wait.
"I don't think there's any substantive change from where we were just before the new year," State Department spokesperson Victoria Nuland said recently, "which is that we're waiting to hear from the North Korean side."
With governments and experts alike reading the tea leaves of what the future on the Korean peninsula may hold, there are some early signs and questions to keep an eye on as to how things may bear out.
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is calling for an even greater investment in Asia, as the United States pivots from Iraq and Afghanistan,
"One of the most important tasks of American statecraft over the next decade will therefore be to lock in a substantially increased investment - diplomatic, economic, strategic, and otherwise - in the Asia-Pacific region," Clinton writes in an essay just published by Foreign Policy.
The essay, called "America's Pacific Century, published ahead of this week's State visit by South Korean President Lee Myung-bak, comes at a time when many in Congress are calling for a pullback on U.S. efforts and spending abroad. Clinton, bluntly, says such calls are "misguided". South Korea alone is stuck in U.S. political quagmire with a hold on the nomination for U.S. ambassador to Seoul (more on that soon on Security Clearance) and a final vote still needed for the trade deal with the Koreans.
"With Iraq and Afghanistan still in transition and serious economic challenges in our own country, there are those on the American political scene who are calling for us not to reposition, but to come home. They seek a downsizing of our foreign engagement in favor of our pressing domestic priorities. These impulses are understandable, but they are misguided. Those who say that we can no longer afford to engage with the world have it exactly backward - we cannot afford not to," Clinton writes.