December 19, 2011

CNAS Experts Comment on the Death of Kim Jong Il

Washington, December 19, 2011 - The death of North Korean
leader Kim Jong Il has the potential to trigger a new crisis on the Korean
Peninsula and in East Asia but could also portend a new opening in relations
between the United States and North Korea. CNAS experts offered the following


Dr. Patrick M. Cronin, Senior Advisor and
Senior Director of the Asia-Pacific Security Program

"Kim Jong Il has left North Korea in a
period of colossal uncertainty.  Uncertainty does not mean collapse
anytime soon, but neither does it suggest a quick breakthrough or a leap into
conflict.  Much depends on an untested new leader.  What we know
about Kim Jong Eun is that he has less experience, less credibility and less maturity
than his father.  But the military holds the real reins of power in North
Korea, and it will seek to ward off any intervention into its internal
affairs.  It may also block any rush to the bargaining table through stern
warnings and occasional demonstrations of military might.  Ensuring peace
and stability on the Korean Peninsula is job number one for leaders in
Washington and Seoul. In so doing there is also an opportunity to forge a
closer relationship with China."

Richard Fontaine, Senior Advisor and Senior Fellow

"2011 has been a bad year for dictatorship, and so it is quite fitting
that the Dear Leader has passed the scene before year's end. The demise of the
world's most brutal dictator augurs well for North Korea and the world over the
long term. What it means over the short term, however, no one knows. In the
byzantine world of Pyongyang politics, transitions seem to require saber
rattling, missile firing and worse. Now is the time for the United States to
stand with its allies in opposition to any forthcoming aggression while
making clear to the new regime in the North that a path out of the
international wilderness, should they seek it, is possible."

Robert D. Kaplan, Senior Fellow

Anything is possible in North Korea, including
the collapse of the state.  Nevertheless, as I wrote in 2006 in The Atlantic, "The
long-term success of America's basic policy on the peninsula hinges on the
willingness of South Koreans to make a significant sacrifice, at some point,
for the sake of freedom in the North. But sacrifice  is not a word
that voters in free and prosperous societies tend to like. If voters in
Western-style democracies are good at anything, it's rationalizing their own
selfishness-and it may turn out that the authoritarian Chinese understand the
voters of South Korea's free and democratic society better than we do. If
that's the case, there may never actually be a Greater Korea in the way that we
imagine it. Rather, the North's demise will be carefully managed by Beijing in
such a way that the country will go from being a rogue nation to a de facto
satellite of the Middle Kingdom-but one with sufficient contact with the South
that the Korean yearning for a measure of reunification will be
satisfied." - "When North Korea falls," The Atlantic, October
2006, by Robert D. Kaplan

Zachary M. Hosford, Research Associate

"Though the death of Kim Jong Il has increased the uncertainty
surrounding the stability of the North Korean regime,
the alliance between the United States and South Korea is well
equipped to face the potential security challenges that may arise. However,
given the volatile nature of North Korea, it will be critical that the United
States and South Korea continue to work closely to monitor the status of North
Korean internal dynamics and military forces. As the failure to successfully
transfer leadership to Kim Jong Eun could result in the collapse of
the North Korean government, the two allies must simultaneously prepare for
multiple contingencies from increased food shortages and refugee flows among
the North Korean population to military provocations including additional
missile tests and uses of force against South Korea. Clear and constant
communication between the two allies will go a long way to helping prevent any
further deterioration of security on the Korean Peninsula."


South Korea: A Strategic Alliance for the 21st Century
, CNAS report,
December 2010, by Abraham Denmark and Zachary Hosford

U.S.-ROK Alliance in the 21st Century
, book published by the Korea
Institute for National Unification, December 2009, by Richard Fontaine, Abraham
Denmark, et al

Lessons: Navigating Negotiations with the DPRK
, CNAS report, November 2009,
by Abraham Denmark, Zachary Hosford and Michael Zubrow

Illusions: Regaining the Strategic Initiative with North Korea
report, June 2009, by Abraham Denmark, Nirav Patel, Lindsey Ford, Zachary
Hosford and Michael Zubrow


"The Long Goodbye: The Future North Korea," World Affairs, May/June 2011, by Robert D. Kaplan and Abraham

"North Korea: To Feed, or Not to
Feed," The National Interest, March 11, 2011, by Dr. Patrick Cronin
and Abraham M. Denmark

"The Dangers
of Korean Unification," The Diplomat, February 10, 2011, by Dr.
Patrick Cronin

paths to war on the Korean Peninsula," CNN , December 20, 2010, by
Dr. Patrick Cronin

"North Korea's
Dangerous Delusions," CNN, November 23, 2010, by Dr. Patrick Cronin

"When North Korea falls,"
The Atlantic, October 2006, by Robert D. Kaplan


up to date with all CNAS news on Twitter @CNASdc and
on Facebook;
listen to iTunes
; and watch exclusive CNAS interviews and event highlights on our YouTube