North Korea will continue to remain East Asia’s trouble-maker. Pyongyang’s active missile and nuclear programs leave the region’s main powers - China, Japan, South Korea and the ‘offshore balancer’ US - stay on alert, sometimes higher, sometimes lower. Pyongyang has no intention whatsoever to give up and dismantle its missile and nuclear programs as it would leave the country with no bargaining tools to employ for its political blackmail policies. China remains a staunch supporter of the current status quo, i.e.
The transition of power in North Korea after the death of Kim Jong-il portends both change and continuity. The heir to power, Kim Jong-un, no doubt relies on advice if not pressure from an inner circle of generals and other senior leaders. So far North Korean policy appears extremely tough, but perhaps that's an attempt to buttress his image amid concerns about his youth and inexperience.
Recent and ongoing shifts in Japan’s military security – both domestic and in relations with other countries – are once again stirring the debate about whether Japan’s security posture is set for radical change. Japan’s recent policies towards North Korea, Myanmar/Burma, Iran and Afghanistan as well as new security issues suggest, however, that change is continuative.
While China seeks stability in and around North Korea. Py-ongyang continues to upset regional stability with missile and nuclear testing. Thus, Bei-jing finds itself in the uncomfortable situation of nursing and feeding an ally who challenges the regional stability China wants.
There was a brief period earlier this year – 16 days to be more precise – when it looked like the death of Kim Jong Il and smooth transition to his successor, number three son Kim Jong Un, would make a breakthrough possible in the long-standing nuclear stalemate with North Korea; then Pyongyang reverted to form. Shortly after pledging to freeze all nuclear and missile tests, Pyongyang announced a satellite launch, thus pulling the rug out from under Washington (and itself) and business as usual (or unusual) returned to the Peninsula.