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North Korea Follies


North Korean dictator Kim Jong Il sent a conciliatory message to South Korean President Lee Myung-bak on Sunday, in the latest action by North Korea that appears to reverse months of antagonistic behavior, and once again left diplomats puzzling over Pyongyang's motives.

Is it really so puzzling? It makes (cynical) sense to me: When Obama takes office, you cause a bunch of crises to make sure he's paying attention to you and the media is asking what you're going to do about those scary maniacs. And then after a while you throw open your door and give the U.S. an opportunity to buy you off--perhaps with fuel or food aid--and make the headache go away for a while. And once the Norks feel forgotten again, they'll kick up a fuss again. Rinse, wash, repeat.

National security officials say Obama is well aware of this game and determined not to play it any longer. But the alternatives are scarce, and he has a lot of other problems on his plate. So don't be shocked if it does.