Kim Jong Il doesn't trust his son

Reacting to the news that Kim Jong-un, North Korea's heir apparent, has assumed high positions in the military and the ruling Workers' Party, NightWatch's John McCreary comments:

Today's appointments complete the bridge that links military and party authority. The young Kim has both, but in both domains he is shadowed and shepherded by his aunt, his father's protégés and by his uncle Chang Song-taek and his protégés. This young man has no independent authority. He is in training. A regent troika lurks behind the scenes that is composed of the Chang family leaders and the newest Vice Marshal in the army.

Kim Chong-il, meanwhile, has given up none of his positions of authority , such as Chairman of the National Defense Commission, head of the party and head of all the party organizations of importance. Kim Chong-il does not trust his youngest son to govern anything, which explains the regency troika.

The various appointments and elevation of an untested youth in this fashion has no precedent in recent North Korean history. the process looks poorly and hastily thought out in terms of competence and ability, but crafted to try to keep the Kim family in charge.

It suggests that Kim Chong-il is sick and could die with little warning. Appointing neophytes and civilians to four-star military ranks looks ill-conceived and prone to incite resistance from professional military ranks.  The leadership is becoming much less stable and durable.

Nevertheless, the announcements leave no room for doubt that the heir-apparent is the third son, Kim Chong-un. That does not mean he will ever govern.


Japan sends China $1.2 billion in aid every year

It's a not-very-well-known fact that China, the world's second largest economy which holds $2.5 trillion in foreign reserves, still gets about $2.5 billion in foreign government aid every year. (Jack Chow recently explored how this plays out that the Global Fund for AIDS in an FP piece.)

What's even more surprising, given this month's events, is who the biggest source of that aid -- accounting for nearly half -- is: 

Today's aid adds up to $1.2 billion a year from Japan, followed by Germany at about half that amount, then France and Britain. ...

Japan's generosity has historically been driven at least in part by a desire to make amends for its invasion of China in the 1930s. But in recent years Japanese lawmakers and officials have repeatedly questioned whether the money flow should continue, pointing to China's emergence as a donor to African countries.

It's pretty hard to see how this will continue to be tenable in the current Japanese political climate, particularly with China arresting Japanese workers sent to clean up World War II sites.