Who's Afraid of Kim Jong Il?

This week, Global Pulse examines international reaction to North Korea's weekend missile launch. According to most world media, the launch was a failure and resulted in the missile's harmless fall into the Pacific Ocean. But Pyongyang insisted the missile reached outer space as a satellite, using the event to reintroduce Kim Jong Il in his first public appeareance since August.


Photo footage of Kim in front of North Korea's Parliament showed the leader suffering from weight loss, though he appeared more healthy than some had predicted in the wake of a rumored stroke in August. The Financial Times speculated that Kim's actions could push East Asia into a new arms race as South Korea and Japan escalate their military response capabilities. The Washington Post though noted that a similar 2006 missile launch was followed only weeks later by North Korea's willingness to return to diplomatic negotiations.


Is Kim Jong Il a leader to be feared, and perhaps met with military force? Or is this most recent missile launch merely the work of an increasingly frail and marginalized despot?        


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