From an article by Andrew S. Natsios, a Texas A&M University professor, and former USAID administrator and Special Envoy to Sudan:
The U.N.’s annual crop assessment for North Korea will shortly be published. This assessment will show that drought early this summer seriously damaged the crop so that the harvest will drive the country, always on the edge of starvation, ever deeper into nutritional disaster.
While famines anywhere have terrible humanitarian consequences, in North Korea’s case in particular, they have political consequences because they have nuclear weapons and the means to deliver them. While the North Korean government has been building its nuclear arsenal and the maintaining the third largest land army in Asia, its people have been sliding into deepening poverty and acute malnutrition.
When Kim Jong Il died in late 2011, he left his 28-year-old son, Kim Jong Un, in charge of a government run by an aging party apparatus and military command structure. Bowing to Chinese pressure, Kim Jong Il appointed the boy’s uncle, Jang Song-taek, as Regent. To ensure the party cadres and military are loyal to the new leader, Taek has been forcing officials and generals into retirement to purge the system of the old order and ensure the loyalty of the new one. The purge, however, has created a class of officials angry at the new leadership for their loss of power and its perquisites.
All this could not come at a more inopportune time.