The year 2012 may be determinative in transforming the leadership that will decide the fate of the hexagonal maneuvering over the North Korean nuclear threat and the prospects for reunification. Assuming his posts after his father Kim Jong-il’s sudden death, an untested Kim Jong-un faces the difficult challenge of consolidating power while calibrating the pressure he and his powerful military constituency will apply in order to leave no doubt that North Korea cannot be ignored. A re-ascendant Vladimir Putin, who made renewal of personal ties to Kim Jong-il the stepping stone to Russia’s reassertion of influence in Asia, must decide how firmly to support North Korea along with China in realizing his strategy of reasserting the power balancing logic of Soviet foreign policy. Similar to Putin, Xi Jinping can look forward to a high probability that he will retain power into the 2020s, continuing a relationship with North Korea which China has no intention of fraying no matter how belligerent the North becomes. At the sixtieth anniversary of the Korean War, the Chinese leader delivered a message that it was a glorious war that cemented relations with North Korea. These three choices of leaders provided clarity within the regional hexagon by early 2012, but another three uncertainties still to be resolved by year’s end must be added to this picture.
This section contains the following chapters:
- Leadership Changes and South Korea’s China Policy – JAE HO CHUNG
- North Korean Politics and China – JACK PRITCHARD and L. GORDON FLAKE
- Japanese Politics, the Korean Peninsula, and China – KAZUHIKO TOGO
- Chinese Politics and the Korean Peninsula – GILBERT ROZMAN