Photo by WALLY SANTANA/AFP/Getty Images.
UPDATE: In the United States, politicians are always promising change. In North Korea, it seems, it’s just the opposite.
In its first official pronouncement since young Kim Jong-un took over as supreme leader from his late father, North Korea declared that there would be no change in its policies. That includes its implacable hostility toward its neighbor, South Korea.
“We declare solemnly and confidently that the foolish politicians around the world, including the puppet group in South Korea, should not expect any change from us,” the country’s National Defense Committee said in a statement, according to the New York Times. “We will never deal with the traitor group of Lee Myung-bak.”
The strident statement came a day after an elaborate funeral for Kim Jong-il. South Korea did not send official condolences for the Dear Leader’s death, though it did send two private delegations to the North earlier this week to meet its new leaders.
A North Korea expert told the Associated Press that it’s “too early to say the North is dashing hopes for reforms.” Rather, the hardline stance may represent an attempt to project strength and rally domestic support amid the political transition.
POST Monday, Dec. 26: Call him the Great Successor, Outstanding Leader, or Supreme Commander, but it seems Kim Jong-un is on his way establishing himself as North Korea’s head of state.
The son of the late Kim Jong-il met with foreign leaders for the first time this weekend, welcoming two delegations from neighbor and rival South Korea, according to state-run North Korean media. The visiting dignitaries included the chairwoman of Hyundai and the widow of former South Korean president Kim Dae-Jung. Al Jazeera English has video, embedded below.
“I hope that our visit to the North will help improve South-North relations," said Kim Dae-Jung’s widow, Lee Hee-Ho, before crossing the border, according to CNN. Indeed, the visit appeared to be cordial, the New York Times reported.
Meanwhile, Kim Jong-un has been named head of the North’s ruling Workers’ Party, a move the Times called “another step in what appeared to be a choreographed sequence of events meant to show that he was assuming all the key positions held by his father.”
After the Dear Leader, Kim Jong-il, died on Dec. 17, there was concern around the world about how the succession would play out. Since then, all signs have pointed to a smooth transition, with his third son Kim Jong-un assuming the official mantle of supreme leader. The state-run media have piled on the superlatives, first dubbing him the Great Successor, then Outstanding Leader, and recently Supreme Commander. (Here’s a Slate Explainer on how North Koreans choose their ruler’s nicknames.)
Still, many believe others in the ruling family will wield influence over the young heir. NPR notes that Kim Jong-un’s aunt and uncle are expected to be key members of the inner circle.
The topic of North Korea's future dominated talks between Japan and China over the weekend, Reuters reports. Japan asked China to keep the country in check and share information about developments there amid concern over how the new regime will carry out foreign policy.