North Koreans mourn on anniversary of Kim Jong Il's death

By Brooks Hays  |  Dec. 17, 2017 at 11:48 AM
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Dec. 17 (UPI) -- On the anniversary of the death of the the former North Korea leader Kim Jong Il, the state news agency published footage of thousands of mourners bowing, paying their respects and laying flowers at the foot of a statue of Jong-Il.

The "Dear Leader" died on December 17, 2011. It is also the anniversary of the death of Kim Il Sung, the country's founder. According to reports, senior government officials visited the mausoleum where the remains of Kim Il Sung are interred.

Some experts predicted leader Kim Jong Un would launch another test missile on the anniversary of his father's death, but history suggests the North Korean government rarely tests missiles during the winter.

World leaders and security officials expect the provocations to ramp back up in the spring. Though no new missiles have been tested in recent weeks, tensions in the region remain high.

Last week, Senator Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., was asked to weigh in on the changes of the United States engaging in a military conflict or intervention in North Korea.

"I would say there's a three in 10 chance we use the military option," Graham told the Atlantic.

Graham said the odds would jump to 70 percent if Kim Jong Un's government conducts another nuclear bomb test.

Analysts at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, a Washington-based think tank, argue that now is the time to purse diplomacy and work to tamp down tensions before North Korea begins testing missiles again.

"The data [reveals] that there is a clear uptick in provocations starting in the months of March and April, which is the period when U.S. and South Korea conduct their annual Foal Eagle and Key Resolve joint military exercises," Lisa Collins said in a CSIS newsletter published last month.

"This anticipated uptick in provocations in the 2nd and 3rd quarters of 2018 would not provide favorable conditions for diplomacy with North Korea," Collins said. "The space for dialogue may therefore be limited to the next three months when we can expect fewer provocations from North Korea."

Last week, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said the United States could be open to peace talks with North Korea without preconditions. The U.S. has previously insisted that an abandonment of North Korea's nuclear program is a prerequisite for any diplomatic discussion.

"It's not realistic to say we're only going to talk if you come to the table ready to give up your program, they have too much invested in it," Tillerson told the Atlantic Council, an international affairs think tank.

However, Tillerson said North Korea needs to "earn its way" back to the discussion table by refraining from further military provocations.

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