Analysts in Seoul said the thread plausibly linking the nuclear revelations and Tuesday’s attack in the West Sea is the leadership succession now underway in Pyongyang. Both underscore what has been a central political component of the Kim Jong Il regime, the doctrine of ‘Military First’ politics. In Kim Jong Il s own words, it means “placing top priority on military affairs,” and turning the North Korean army into a “pillar of the revolution.” Just six weeks ago, the regime in Pyongyang effectively affirmed that Kim Jong Il’s son, Kim Jong Un, will succeed his father as next ruler in North Korea. That the North continues to upgrade its ability to make nuclear weapons — the regime already has between eight and 12 bombs, according to U.S. intelligence — while lashing out militarily during a high profile visit to the neighborhood by President Obama’s special envoy shows one thing: whenever young Kim takes over, nothing much in the North will change.
“Kim Jong Un,” believes Cheong Seong-Chang, a senior fellow at the Sejong Institute, a Seoul think tank, “is currently under the influence of more hawkish generals. The son’s power base is derived from the military, and the power of military is greater than ever,” Cheong argues.