The Perilous Case of Kim Jong Il

Kim Jong Il is dying. Sons, generals and statesmen vie for his throne. With Pyongyang's impressive arsenal of chemical-, biological- and nuclear-weapons programs, the Fall of the House of Kim could end in a peninsular war or worse.

Issue: Sept-Oct 2009

(c) CorbisTHESE DAYS when North Korea conducts a nuclear or missile test, the preferred metaphor in Washington is to compare Kim Jong Il to a spoiled child. President George W. Bush used to say the North's "Dear Leader" was like a baby throwing food on the floor in the hope that the adults would pick it up. When asked about North Korea during a recent trip to the region, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said that as a mother she was already familiar with small children acting out to gain attention. Meanwhile, foreign-policy experts have fought over diplomatic tactics for a decade: Should we engage Pyongyang bilaterally? Multilaterally? Not at all? Journalism's contribution has been a series of depressingly accurate but not terribly prescriptive accounts of how often the U.S.

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