It’s anybody’s guess why North Korea has reversed its promise to dismantle its nuclear program, said The Washington Post in an editorial. It might be a bluff to get more concessions from the West, or a consequence of Kim Jong Il’s apparent illness. Regardless, “whoever is now in charge of North Korea” must be warned that backsliding will result in “economic strangulation.”

It would be wise to “push ahead with energy aid to the North,” said The Korea Times, at least until it’s clear what Kim’s regime is up to.  Whatever the reason for the announcement that Pyongyang will restart the processing plant that produces plutonium for weapons, it’s important to avoid a “protracted impasse” that could “kill any remaining momentum” in North Korea’s denuclearization.

There’s no question that “one of the Bush administration’s rare foreign policy successes” is now unraveling, said Siobhan Dowling in Germany’s Spiegel Online. And this could be just the beginning. If Kim is finished, the center-left German newspaper Süddeutsche Zeitung observed, “the North Korea that will be unleashed on the world will be marked by power struggles and wild survival tactics.”