After a year that included the Arab Awakening, the euro crisis, Japan’s nuclear catastrophe, the killing of Osama bin Laden, and the unanticipated reaction to Russia’s recent parliamentary elections, there are many unanswered questions left for 2012.
The death of North Korean dictator Kim Jung Il increases the likelihood that the stress on the multiple fault lines in Korean society will reach the point of breaking. Secret talks with China to plan for contingencies may be needed now more than ever.
During a visit to Russia, North Korean leader Kim Jong-il said he would be ready to discuss Pyongyang's nuclear production if international six-party talks, which ended in 2008, resume.
Although movement is being made toward the resumption of six-party talks with North Korea, persistent disagreements will likely prevent any meaningful progress toward the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula.
The 2011 conference focused on new actors and new agendas, reflecting the need to develop cooperative responses to challenges being posed by changing technology, distributions of political power, interest in nuclear energy, and security conditions in key regions.
Nuclear disarmament faded from media attention after the New START agreement was signed, but it remains a challenge for the world.
Confronting the global challenges in 2011, from the ongoing war in Afghanistan and a rising China to continuing international economic turmoil, will require an understanding how much has changed and the extent to which the center of gravity in global power has shifted.
Moscow's more active policy stance on North Korea serves Russia's strategic, political, and economic interests and could potentially have a positive impact on the situation on the Korean Peninsula.
Moscow has condemned North Korea’s shelling of the island in the Yellow Sea and expressed concern over Pyongyang’s nuclear ambitions. When Russians look into the future, they see a reunified Korea under the leadership of the South, and this is reflected in their foreign policy.
While the ongoing handover of power from Kim Jong Il to Kim Jong Un in Pyongyang is a potentially dangerous process, it also provides new opportunities for the international community to nudge the North Korean regime in a more open and liberal direction.