Two wire service reports indicate that North Korea has made major changes in its normally fanatical approach to its sovereignty and security. Reuters informs its readers that the hermit nation has suddenly developed a sense of urgency about restarting the six-nation talks that Kim Jong-Il previously joined with great reluctance:
North Korea wants urgently to restart six-party talks on its nuclear programs but is still demanding of its certain conditions be met, a top U.N. official told South Korea’s Yonhap news agency on Thursday.
North Korea still agreed with the format of the talks, it quoted Jean Ping, president of the U.N. General Assembly, as saying. Officials told him during a visit that Pyongyang was committed to denuclearizing the Korean peninsula, it said.
“North Korea not only agreed to the format of the talks but also believes that the talks should restart urgently,” Ping was quoted as saying.
North Korea has hardly been a fan of the multilateral negotiations in the past. Their haste to return to the table sounds like someone else may be making the decisions now, an impression that only gains currency with this report from the French news agency AFP. Not only have Kim’s pictures been removed from public places in Pyongyang, they’ve also been pulled from the lapels of traveling Northerners:
South Korea’s Unification Ministry confirmed that lapel badges of Kim are no longer being worn by North Koreans travelling from the Stalinist state to China on official business.
In the past, they wore either a badge portraying Kim or a similar badge portraying his father, the Stalinist state’s founder Kim Il-Sung who died in 1994.
“North Koreans travelling to and from China who formerly wore the badge of either Kim Il-Sung or Kim Jong-Il on their chests, have stopped wearing the Kim Jong-Il badge,” Unification Ministry spokeswoman Yang Jong-Hwa told AFP, citing an internal report from the ministry’s information analysis bureau.
The official party line has Kim issuing orders to put an end to the personality cult he transferred from his father to himself after assuming power. Up to now, the only indication of regime change has been the removal of Kim’s pictures, and the official explanation at least sounded plausible. Now that their foreign policy has apparently evolved, the rumors of Kim’s demise start taking on a bit more credibility. The Reuters article discusses the latest of them:
Rumors circulated in currency and stock markets in Seoul and Tokyo early on Thursday that Kim had been shot dead.
“There have been various rumors about North Korea and some do have an impact on the market, but this time there’s no reaction,” said a foreign exchange dealer at a bank in Seoul.
Something has changed up there. Maybe Kim just decided to get humble after Bush’s re-election, but with the nation starving to death and their neighbors aligning themselves with the US on their nuclear ambitions, one or more of the palace guard may have decided that their Nero needed to go.