While we don't ultimately know what prompted North Korea's nuclear test, we do know that Kim Jong-Il was hospitalized last fall, and that he is maneuvering to appoint a successor. Last September, TNR reviewed Kim's options: Of Mr. Kim's four children from three mothers, his youngest son, Kim Jong-un, is thought to be his favorite, but being only 24 and third in line, it would seem very difficult to jump two sons in the succession.
Maybe--hopefully--it was just a one-time concession, an effort to get the Chinese censors off his back once and for all. Regular readers may recall my review last year of Hero, the gorgeous, innovative martial-arts epic by Zhang Yimou that concluded with an appalling paean to authoritarianism in general and the "one China" policy of Tibetan and Taiwanese subjugation in particular. Zhang's followup effort, thankfully, is less morally fraught.