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Surprisingly, this story seems not yet to have been picked up by English-language media. Chang Song U, the brother of Chang Song Taek and a higher-up in the DPRK bureaucracy, was reported on August 25 by KCNA to have died. Kim Jong Il was said to be saddened; much more detail is available in Chinese.
In the meantime, North Korean media is celebrating Youth Day, talking almost daily about pro-NK activities in war-torn Mexico, and slapping up as much anti-Japanese propaganda and historical grievance as possible (probably desperately hoping for an LDP/conservative miracle in the parliamentary elections, as a friendly Japan is precisely what the NK leadership doesn’t need from a propaganda/mobilization standpoint). Again, I strongly recommend reading the Congressional testimony of Selig Harrison on the Korean-Japan dynamic; he has great insights here. (Multiple links provided in previous post, just search “Harrison” within this blog to find.) Jeff Rud, a student of Korean War crimes, has an insightful post on his blog on the basis for, and the uses of, recent anti-Japanese dispatches by KCNA.
Although Hatoyama, the presumptive new Japanese P.M., speaks well of China and would be a significant improvement over the current occupant (Aso of the LDP), China is also angry with Japan at the moment. However, their reasons are more “War on Terror” related (at least in Beijing’s thought): Japan admitted Uighur independence leader Rebiya Khadeer in July, and so they are being punished by a naval snub.
If China was really gutsy, Xinhua would grab my citation from the Nazi archives about NSDAP/Imperial Japanese wartime propaganda insisting on Xinjiang’s independence. Now that is a plot!
I have no inside information on the five North Korean officials in Los Angeles so will remain basically mum on that topic. However, we should take note that they (or some pro-North Korean organization in Los Angeles, apparently) made a statement on August 21 about the need to “elimnate traitors” which is certainly meant to provide some political cover to hardline elements in in Pyongyang or the KPA brass who might otherwise be opposed to accepting an invitation to Los Angeles, which is way beyond the normal circumference in New York/Jersey out of which North Korean officials are normally not allowed to travel in the U.S. The fact that they drove around in a private car near LAX (they almost certainly arrived on a direct flight from Beijing) both gives me great respect for their death-defying tactics of braving LA’s legendary traffic and the small but persistent power of people-to-people, or Track II, exchanges.
And, as a final reminder that things are warming up with the Chinese, we have news of a Chinese delegation in the DPRK from August 17-21, and frequent performance of a new musical about the Chinese PLA’s liberation of Shanghai, the very city where China is returning the favor by quashing the broadcast of film documentaries critical of Pyongyang.