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It's been a while since North Korea has kicked up its rhetoric again. After a large number of reports circulated last year on the deteriorating health of "Dear Leader" Kim Jong-il, Kim started appearing again on tours to factories or military bases to prove to the world that he was still up and about holding the reins of the reclusive state.
Kim's recent meeting with Chinese official Wang Jiarui, chief of the Chinese Communist Party's International Department, was seen as a move to end the dispute over whether he was fit enough to run the country. And it certainly seems like things are back to normal in the North.
Kim said during his meeting with the Chinese envoy that he hopes to co-exist peacefully with the South and that Pyongyang is still committed to removing nuclear weapons from the peninsula. The odd thing is a few days later, the North announced it would scrap all political and military deals it had with Seoul. The Dear Leader himself then said the country is on the brink of war with the South.
What is the North trying to do? A Japanese newspaper, citing a government official, reported today that Pyongyang is now preparing for a long-range missile test. More confusing messages?
Most experts say that the initial goal Kim Jong-il has is to try to force the hawkish South Korean government into a more friendly and lenient position towards Pyongyang. People also believe North Korea is kicking up its act to get attention from the new U.S. president, Barack Obama, who is fully focused on reviving the American economy.
The Japanese media report said it would take at least one or two months before Pyongyang is ready to launch its long-range missile. The missile-immune public in the South will not care, but will North Korea's aggressive moves have an impact on Seoul, which is tied up with its own share of political infighting and economic problems? That is something to keep an eye out for.