Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Death of N. Korean Leader Complicates U.S. Uneasiness

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Death of N. Korean Leader Complicates U.S. Uneasiness

Article excerpt

The death of North Korean leader Kim Il Sung could not have come at a worse time for the United States in its efforts to stop officials in Pyongyang from acquiring nuclear weapons.

It means that the leadership in Pyongyang will be struggling to sort out its internal politics in the next few months - just when North Korea is facing major decisions about the future of its nuclear program, about the disposal of highly radioactive nuclear fuel and, more generally, about its relations with the rest of the world.

If Kim's eldest son, Kim Jong Il, emerges in control in Pyongyang, he will usher in the world's first communist dynasty. At the very least, that transition means months of uncertainty for the United States.

"Even if Kim Jong Il takes the reins of power, we won't know for a while how solid his leadership is or whether he will last," Leonard Spector, a nuclear specialist at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, said Saturday. "Clearly, there's a faction in Pyongyang that wants to push this (nuclear weapons program) forward."

And so it may be one of history's unending ironies that Kim's death is being greeted by the United States with more than a little regret.

When President Bill Clinton, at an economic summit meeting in Naples, Italy, expressed "sincere condolences" to the people of North Korea about Kim's death, he was being more than just polite.

The North Korean leader who has been viewed since the beginning of the Cold War as one of America's leading adversaries became, in his final days, the man with whom U.S. policy-makers hoped to make a deal.

He was considered the only one in Pyongyang with the unchallengeable authority needed to cut off North Korea's developing nuclear weapons program before it destabilizes the East Asian region.

Consider the plight the United States and its principal allies in the region, Japan and South Korea, now find themselves in:

On Saturday, talks in Geneva between the United States and North Korea about the nuclear program were halted temporarily, a day after they had started. …

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