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May 29

The Last Days of Kim Jong-il: The North Korean Threat in a Changing Era

North Korea has remained a thorn in the side of the United States ever since its creation in the aftermath of the Korean conflict of 1950–1953. Crafting a foreign policy that effectively deals with North Korea while still ensuring stability and security on the Korean Peninsula – and in northeast Asia as a whole – has proved very challenging for successive American administrations. In the wake of ruler Kim Jong-il’s death in December 2011, analysts and policymakers continue to speculate about the effect his last years as leader will have on the future of North Korea.

Bruce Bechtol, Jr., contends that Kim Jong-il’s regime (1994–2011) exacerbated the threats that North Korea posed, and still poses, to the world. Bechtol explains how North Korea presents important challenges on five key fronts: its evolving conventional military threat, its strategy in the Northern Limit Line (NLL) area, its nuclear capabilities, its support for terrorism, and its handling of the succession process. Bechtol’s analysis clears up the persistent mystery of how Kim Jong-il’s dysfunctional government in its final years was able to persist in power while both presenting a grave danger to its neighbors and setting the stage for the current government.

Bruce E. Bechtol, Jr., is an Associate Professor of Political Science at Angelo State University. Formerly a senior intelligence analyst at the Defense Intelligence Agency, he is currently on the editorial advisory board of the Korea Observer. He also serves as the President of the International Council on Korean Studies and sits on the Board of Directors of the Council on U.S.-Korean Security Studies. His most recent book is Defiant Failed State: The North Korean Threat to International Security.

More About the Speakers

Bruce E. Bechtol, Jr.

Hosted By

Bruce Klingner Bruce Klingner

Senior Research Fellow, Northeast Asia Read More