The 3 A.M. Phone Call: Pyongyang
April 12, 2012
It is often said that American presidencies are remembered as much for how they deal with the unexpected as with the expected. That is, incoming presidents have agendas that they had stumped on throughout the campaign and come into office only to find their attention swept away by unforeseen events that would later define their presidencies. For George W. Bush, this was September 11. For Barack Obama, it was arguably the financial meltdown. For the next administration, this potentially could be a crisis in North Korea.
North Korea meets the definition of an obscure issue for a new administration. Not much is known about the regime. Pyongyang gets uppity every once in a while, but usually some diplomacy and a small amount of food or energy is enough to satiate the impoverished regime. Its nuclear weapons programs remain the main concern, but any new president, with a long to-do list, is unlikely to seek resolution of this problem as a top priority. Yet, before the next president finishes his term, North Korea may explode or implode in a way that will be impossible to ignore.