July 23, 2012
The recent discharge of one of North Korea’s most powerful officials raises new concerns about power struggles within the oppressive, isolated communist state.
Vice Marshal Ri Yong-ho was ousted earlier this month from his position as chief of the Korea People’s Army General Staff. While the reason for the switch was not disclosed, it came about either because dictator Kim Jong-un is feeling more confident in his role as Supreme Leader, or because older elites are pushing back against their new ruler and his inner circle, Heritage Foundation expert Bruce Klingner suggests.
In either case, the dismissal indicates a growing level of instability that could have great ramifications for the U.S. Klingner explains:
North Korean leadership instability is worrisome to the United States and its allies, since it increases the potential for volatility, additional provocative acts, or implosion of a regime possessing nuclear weapons.
The U.S. can take two steps to prepare for possible North Korean belligerence, Klingner says:
- The U.S. can develop a contingency plan for crisis response. Countries close to North Korea (South Korea and Japan) can coordinate to ensure an effective plan.
- The U.S. should commit to defending South Korea and Japan in order to ensure their safety in the event of a nuclear attack. In the same vein, U.S. military presence should remain in the region for quick and aggressive action.
What do you think the U.S. should do to prepare for a potentially belligerent North Korea?