So once again, it seems for the moment, North Korea has taken center position on the global threat matrix.
A couple of excerpts from worthwhile BBC informational pieces follow (recommend reading them in full) ...
Tracking N Korea's missile intent
by Rob Watson Defence and security correspondent, BBC News
Like most things about North Korea, little is known for certain about the Taepodong 2 missile.
But there is no doubt North Korea does have a very long standing and pretty sophisticated missile programme.
In 1998, before it began observing a moratorium on tests, North Korea launched a Taepodong 1 missile which passed over northern Japan and surprised Western intelligence agencies by the use of three stages in the missile's propulsion system.
What is striking about the Taepodong 2 is that it could well be North Korea's first genuine intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) - a missile with a range of more than 5,500km (3,400 miles).
Just how far it might be able to travel and with what weight and type of warhead and level of accuracy is uncertain. But it has been suggested it could have a range up to 15,000km.
That would put Alaska or Hawaii within its reach and even the continental US if a lighter warhead were used.
(More ... http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/asia-pacific/5103394.stm )
Profile: Kim Jong-il
The little that is known about Kim Jong-il, North Korea's leader, conjures up a caricature of a diminutive playboy, a comic picture at odds with his brutal regime.
Diplomats and escaped dissidents talk of a vain, paranoid, cognac-guzzling hypochondriac.
He is said to wear platform shoes and favour a bouffant hairstyle in order to appear taller than his 5 feet 3 inches.
But analysts are undecided whether his eccentricities mask the cunning mind of a master manipulator or betray an irrational madman.
I know I'm an object of criticism in the world, but if I am being talked about, I must be doing the right things
Kim Jong-il Mr Kim may well encourage the myth-making surrounding him precisely in order to keep the Western world guessing. North Korea has little to bargain with, and ignorance breeds fear.
The analysis of him as a mercurial fantasist is certainly beguiling.
He is said to have a library of 20,000 Hollywood movies and to have even written a book on the cinema. He even went so far as to engineer the kidnapping, in 1978, of a South Korean film director and his girlfriend.
This taste for the exotic apparently extends to gastronomy.
Konstantin Pulikovsky, a Russian emissary who travelled with Mr Kim by train across Russia in reported that the North Korean leader had live lobsters air-lifted to the train every day which he ate with silver chopsticks.
The two men shared champagne with a bevy of female companions of "utmost beauty and intelligence", according to Mr Pulikovsky.
Mr Kim also has a reputation as a drinker. He was seen draining 10 glasses of wine during his 2000 summit with the South Korean President Kim Dae-jung and is known to have a taste for Hennessy VSOP cognac.
As head of North Korea's special forces for much of the 70s and 80s, he has been linked by defectors to international terrorist activities, including the 1986 bombing of a Korean Airlines jet in which 115 people died.
(More ... http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/asia-pacific/1907197.stm )
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