I have been working on and following issues in Asia for more than 20 years from various vantages; from the US government (including stints at the Department of State, White House, Department of Defense and Treasury) to think-tanks, through to journalism and business. But no issue has been more vexing or confounding to me than North Korea. Virtually every aspect of my experience has been frustrating and often counterintuitive. Just when you anticipate a new leadership in Pyongyang testing the waters of engagement with a friendlier South Korean government, North Korea instead embarks on a risky course of confrontation. When the US and South Korea are ready for a showdown, Pyongyang suddenly switches gears and talks about peaceful relations. Despite North Korea’s recent starring roles in Hollywood blockbusters either as scheming masterminds (Olympus Has Fallen) or ruthless conquerors (Red Dawn), the truth is no country has played a bad hand more daringly.
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