Now, the death of Kim Jong-il is rekindling speculation that this throwback autocracy must finally be poised to fall. Again, Pyongyang may defy the hopes of many. But in any event, the Korean peninsula faces a perilous period in which the Kim Jr will struggle to rule effectively. Whatever his own capabilities, analysts of the region agree that the family’s semi-divine aura, self-cultivated as it is, can do little except wane in the third generation.
If the reclusive state does break down messily, the scenario becomes one of alarm far beyond the peninsula. Not only is North Korea armed with a handful of primitive nuclear weapons but any unrest in its 1m-strong army could draw the US, China and Japan ”“ the world’s largest economies ”“ into an attritional conflict.
One of the greatest dangers is that US and Chinese forces might meet at close quarters as they pour into North Korea to secure atomic facilities….
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