Monday, April 26, 2010 at 6:27AM
The last few months have witnessed a resurgence in expert chatter on the possible demise of Kim Jong Il's rule in North Korea. Growing evidence of regime frailty has focused attention on potential scenarios of endgame dynamics, most of which feature some combination of Kim striking out against the West, and China being forced to step in to prevent the dreaded refugee flow north. But while the nuclear issue remains a driver of Western policy toward North Korea, China's current focus seems less ideological than predatory. Like a mafia don "busting out" a victimized business partner, Beijing now seems mainly intent on exploiting Kim's distress to empty North Korea of its remaining valuables before the place gets torched.