The first visit by a foreign envoy reported in the press since the end of the period of high combat alert on 30 April suggests the North is open to some visitors who request access - even from Japan.
Three new generals in a year is a highly unusual turnover and a strong indicator that the senior ranks of the armed forces are unsettled. What is certain is that the general most associated with aggressive confrontation has been replaced.
Japan and South Korea announced they will maintain high vigilance against a surprise provocation since North Korea is capable of launching a missile from an operational missile base with little to no warning.
That means that the North will not release Bae in return for apologies, bribes and promise, the usual media of exchange. However, if the UN lifted sanctions in return for his release, Bae would soon be on a flight out of Pyongyang.
What is apparent is that Kim Jong Un has put his country and population under significant stress and has little to show for it, whether measured in increased national readiness, increased personal loyalty or US recognition as a nuclear armed state. UN Sanctions remain in place. Kim refuses South Korean aid and international aid has dried up in a donation weary world. Kim still seems to need a victory.
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