Known Unknowns by Chris Nelson

[The following is taken from the 3 January 2012 edition of The Nelson Report, with kind permission by the author. –CanKor.]

The funeral parade is now over, and the official titles, as of this weekend, are all now awarded…and all to the Boy General, every single one, from the looks of it…and China has hastened to declare its fealty. (…)

So…is this really real? There’s no conceivable way to tell for the time being, and perhaps not for months, given the deliberate opacity of the ruling elite in Pyongyang, so we urge caution in reading any quotes from experts using flatly declarative verbs, adverbs and adjectives. (…)

With the above cautions in mind, here’s “known unknowns” we keep on our List:

  • Will the new Leadership in Pyongyang continue the tentative outreach to the US which seemed to have advanced to the point of imminent announcement of a food for strategic concessions deal, a “first” in such overt linkage by the US…only to be put “on hold” by the sudden demise of Kim Jong-il?
  • Similarly, will the new Leadership continue the positive back-channel contacts which were poised to produce a US announcement that special envoys Glyn Davies and Ford Hart would be dispatched to Beijing with an eye toward whether a new round of 6 Party Talks could be launched in the next few weeks or months?
  • Does the long-standing DPRK leadership declaration of a desire for this year’s 100th anniversary celebrations of the birth of founder Kim Il-sung…repeated after KJI’s funeral…increase chances for some kind of economic liberalization?
  • Does the 100th anniversary provide an incentive for “good behavior” between now and then, in order to maximize Chinese participation and goodies?
  • If progress with the US continues, will the new Leadership respond positively to the carefully phrased outreach remarks from ROK president Lee, since Lee is sticking with nuclear/6PT related qualifiers for improved relations?


  • Will the formulaic “sea of blood” and “traitor” language thrown at Lee since the funeral set a tone for action, or simply in-action in any positive sense with the ROK?
  • Were the Cheonan sinking and Yeonpyeong island attacks a symptom of Kim Jong-un’s need to solidify support from the generals, and, in any event, is the young man’s situation such that he can’t…at least for now…take initiatives with the US which his fully secure father could?
  • If the DPRK conducts some military “provocation”…an attack by any definition…against the ROK, will the US keep it’s threats of a year ago to jointly retaliate, should the Blue House so decide and request?
  • And in any event, is there an increased likelihood that KJU will approve a nuclear bomb test, or an unusually provocative missile test for any of the variously ascribed reasons of both internal and external leverage…bearing in mind that many experts saw a bomb or missile test (and perhaps both) as inevitable despite the 100th anniversary needs?

There are lots of other “known” and “unknown unknowns”, please feel free to add your own.

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