Seoul (AsiaNews) - The surprise visit by three high-ranking North Korean officials to South Korea "could be read as the Kim regime's white flag. Although it is hard to speculate on the actual health of dictator Kim Jong-un, something is certainly happening. It could be the beginning of the end for the Stalinist government," a Korean Catholic source told AsiaNews, with access to both sides of the border, anonymous for security reasons.
"First, the trip could be an attempt to ensure the North's autonomy," the source said. "Let us imagine a situation in which Kim Jong-un is unfit to govern. The three [leaders] are actually saying they are prepared to manage the situation, and want Seoul to help the North get back on track as the start of a political transition."
It might be "surrender. If North Korea can no longer support itself, then it cannot uphold the keep up the existing political system. Thus, they ask Seoul to act proactively in the North: de facto unification."
"The final scenario would see the North become an autonomous neutral republic, a sort of Northeast Asian 'Switzerland'."
"Russia and China have been waiting for the right moment to annex those territories, and Pyongyang - which does not want a sudden reunification with the South - needs a guarantor with United States as the best candidate."
"Basically, the North might be asking Seoul to intercede with Washington on their behalf in order to keep Moscow and Beijing at bay."
"These three hypotheses, potential scenarios," the source noted, "have one thing in common: Pyongyang does not want to fall into the hands of its pushy neighbours. It needs Seoul's help because at the moment it is unable to have friendly relations with any nation in the world."
At the same time, tensions between the two Koreas remain high. North and South Korean naval patrol boats briefly exchanged fire on Tuesday morning near their disputed Yellow Sea border (not recognised by Pyongyang). No damages or casualties were reported.
South Korea's navy fired warning shots at a North Korean patrol boat that crossed the Northern Limit Line that serves as the de facto maritime border between the two countries, South Korea's defence ministry said today. Both sides exchanged fire before the North Korean boat retreated to its own territorial waters, it added.