Economic realities should soon force the North Korean government to loosen its constraints on free enterprise while keeping its socialist framework in place. The country needs foreign assistance in various forms to address its many economic problems, which should push it towards the cementing of improved relations and the forging of closer ties with South Korea. A better relationship with the United States would also help North Korea engage more actively in international trade. However, unless North Korea provides a suitable environment for economic growth, dissolves its isolationism, and improves relations with South Korea, the United States, and the major economies in its geographical region (e.g. Japan), the economic situation will continue to deteriorate and cause more social and political problems. The reclusive leader of the country, Kim Jong Il, has not yet given clear indications that he is capable of leading his country in the direction of improved economic conditions.