Foreign and Defense Policy

President Obama’s ‘wait-and-see approach’ to North Korea?

Last night, the White House released the following statement:

“We are closely monitoring reports that Kim Jong Il is dead. The President has been notified, and we are in close touch with our allies in South Korea and Japan. We remain committed to stability on the Korean peninsula, and to the freedom and security of our allies.”

Although it may be difficult to know exactly what is happening inside North Korea, one would think Washington would at least want to try to shape events. Kim Jong-il’s death is scary because it has suddenly introduced a lot of uncertainty into Northeast Asia. But his death may also be the best opportunity in years to free North Korea from malign tyrranical rule.

Yet the White House statement reeks of timidity and strongly suggests the president is adopting a wait-and-see approach. That’s a shame. Until now, the North Korean game has been one where gains have been too often measured in inches instead of yards. If there’s ever a time for a long bomb, if there’s ever a time to dig deep into the playbook for a flea flicker or a double pass, this is it.

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