North Korea 2006
North Korea. According to CountryAAH, major public holidays in North Korea include Independence Day (August 15) and New Year (January 1). Kim Jong II visited China in January, where he inspected a number of economic development projects and met with Chinese President Hu Jintao. As usual when the North Korean leader does something, the visit was overshadowed by a plethora of speculation, this time about what he was really doing in China. One theory was that the visit marked that North Korea was now entering a period of economic reform, another theory was that Kim Jong II wanted to assure China’s support if the so-called six-party talks on the North Korean nuclear program were to resume. The talks between North Korea, South Korea, Russia, USA, Japan and China failed in November 2005.
At the beginning of the year, South Korea presented statistics on the flow of North Korean refugees: In 2005, nearly 1,400 North Koreans had moved to neighboring countries in the South, a decline from nearly 1,900 refugees in 2004. Since the Korean War of 1950-53, about 8,000 North Koreans were estimated to have moved to South Korea, while another 300,000 were believed to be living secretly in the border areas of northern China.
Confusion arose in March when North Korea fired two short-range robots. It was unclear if it happened by mistake during an exercise or if the robots were deliberately pushed away. In addition, different sources indicated different points of impact, east of the Japanese lake was a task, north to China another. However, the South Korean military described the firing as routine.
In April, South Korean media reported severe food shortages in North Korea. In May, food would not even be distributed in the capital Pyongyang, which would otherwise be more well-stocked than the countryside. The regime stopped UN food supplies in September 2005 because it felt that they were no longer needed. However, food aid continued from China and South Korea, which did not place the same demands on control over distribution as the UN did. However, following negotiations with the regime, the UN food program WFP announced in May that food distribution would resume, albeit on a smaller scale. Under the agreement, WFP would deliver 150 tonnes of food over a two-year period to almost two million of North Korea’s most vulnerable residents.
The consortium that worked on developing two light water reactors for North Korea in exchange for the country scraping its nuclear weapons program was shut down in June. The project was discontinued as early as 2003 since North Korea acknowledged that the attempts to manufacture nuclear bombs continued in secret. At the closure, the project with the light water reactors had cost a total of $ 1.5 billion. That money had mainly come from South Korea and Japan.
On July 5, North Korea fired seven missiles. The trial shootings were condemned by the outside world, and the US with several countries gave the Pyongyang regime clear warnings not to make any more blasts. The UN Security Council condemned North Korea in a resolution and urged the country to respect the 1999 crackdown. North Korea, however, declared the tests successful and warned other countries to exert pressure on the regime. Several countries imposed financial sanctions on Pyongyang, including Australia and Japan. China and South Korea withdrew parts of their assistance. Several assessors warned that the economic sanctions and repeated demands on North Korea to resume the six-party talks could provoke the regime to carry out a nuclear test.
In July, South Korean media reported that Kim Jong II, 64, married his private secretary since the 1980s, Kim Ok, 42. Kim Jong II is believed to have been married twice before. The first wife died in 2004 and the second is also probably dead. With the first two wives, Kim Jong II has three sons. It is unclear which of them will be the leader’s successor.
During the fall, several reports came out that Kim Jong II’s health would have deteriorated, among other things, the leader would suffer from severe diabetes.
On October 9, the regime in Pyongyang announced that for the first time the country has succeeded in conducting an underground nuclear weapons test. The blast, which was carried out in the northeastern North Korea, was probably quite small but was recorded in several places abroad. There was also information that the announcement of the nuclear test would be false. North Korea is believed to have a handful of nuclear weapons, but probably not technology to place them on a missile. The news of the nuclear test spread a shock wave through the Asian neighbors, and the entire international community condemned North Korea. Particular attention was drawn to the fact that China, which often expressed caution in its criticism of Pyongyang, clearly condemned the trial. Later that month, the UN imposed sanctions on North Korea. These included, among other things, shiploads to or from North Korea may be inspected and confiscated if they contain materials for weapons of mass destruction, that the country may not import heavy conventional weapons and that all countries are encouraged to freeze bank accounts linked to the North Korean Nuclear Weapons Program. Pressure from the outside world prompted Pyongyang to return to the six-party talks at the end of the year and refrain from nuclear weapons if the United States pledged not to attack the country.
In November, reports of financial sanctions exacerbated food shortages in North Korea.