It’s entirely possible—if not likely—that the North Korean regime could collapse in the near future, “and at that point, unless there is careful planning among South Korea, China and the United States, all hell will break loose,” writes Fareed Zakaria in the Washington Post. Kim Jong Il’s bizarre succession maneuvers look “designed to stabilize a situation that is not stable,” says one US diplomat. North Korea’s currency took a disastrous hit this year, and food shortages are common.
With mobile phone use exploding in the country, it's possible many will realize how prosperous China and South Korea are, and flee across the border. That could bring down Pyongyang and force reunification, leaving some big questions: Would the united Korea remain American-friendly? Would it keep its nukes? Would US troops remain there? And if so, how will China react to having a nuclear-armed American ally next door? “Forget genteel rows over the yuan’s value—this is what could produce serious geopolitical instability.”