Where once he could drive three wedges between the countries of East Asia before lunchtime, now all his jiving and jigging just drive them closer together.
In July, he gives a big thumbs up to missile tests.
In response, the Security Council, after some initial hemming and hawing by China and Russia, gives him a big thumbs down, coming down on his government like a load of lumber.
The U.S. and Japan were pushing for a load of bricks...but c'mon, the DPRK and China are allies, for Amaterasu's sake (and just how many of the thousands of DPRK workers allowed to toil in the forests of the Russian Far East have military or security services backgrounds, do you think?)
This time around, I was willing to bet good money that Abe was going to have to burn the Yasukuni card in order to get Hu Jintao to meet him--or at least promise a year-long, renewable moratorium on visits to the shrine
Along comes the DPRK Foreign Ministry announcement of an intent to test a nuclear device...and boom (well, hopefully not boom), the heads of state now have to meet without preconditions in order to talk about this new existential threat to the major cities of the region.
Which means that Abe gets to keep Yasukuni in his back pocket for a rainy day.
Call me an idiot, but we may be seeing the emergence at last of a new dynamic at work in Northeast Asia.
Somewhere in between the massive shift of the world's manufacturing capacity to China, the war on terror (which has brought U.S. standards of conduct so low it can no longer criticize Russian practices), the endless profligacy of the U.S. government and populace and the immense buildup of currency reserves in the oil authoritarian states and East Asia, the dependable 20th century emnities and knee-jerk rivalries--the stuff that Kim Il-song swam in as though through water--have become tenuous and unreliable.
I would not go so far as buy into all of R. Taggart Murphy's analysis. I think the Chinese bought into what is called Bretton Woods II by accident, trying achieve a completely different goal. Tag agrees to disagree. Still, everybody has a now share in the America-centric game...and if a bunch of American volunteers die in a miserable little war somewhere on an entirely peripheral matter involving one very dim man's desire to show up his father, well, we'll all get to pay for it.
And criticize from the sidelines.
And Kim, looking at the whole, will see the japes and gambols of Presidents Ahmedinejad and Chavez, the petroleum-powered tweekers of America's nose--and completely misunderstand his place in all of it.
Kim, boobie, you have nothing to sell.
You're not in this game at all.