<html> <head><style type ="text/css">body { font-family: "Bloomberg Prop Unicode I", Verdana, sans-serif; font-size:125%; letter-spacing: -0.3pt; color: #FF9F0F; background-color: #000000; text-align: left; } p {line-height: 1.25em; max-width:900px; width:expression(document.body.clientWidth > 900? "900px": "auto" );} h1, h2, h3 { text-align: left; font-weight: normal; color: #FFFFFF; } h1 { font-size: 130%; } h2 { font-size: 115%; } h3 { font-size: 100%; } #bb-style { font-size: 90%; max-width:900px; width:expression(document.body.clientWidth > 900? "900px": "auto" ); } b, strong { font-weight: bold; } i, em { color: #FEC54A; } pre { font-family: "Andale Mono", "Monaco", "Lucida Console"; letter-spacing: -0.3pt; line-height: 1.25em; } table { border: 0; font-size: 90%; width: 100%; margin-left: auto; margin-right: auto; } td, tr { text-align: left; } td.numeric { text-align: right; } a:link { color:#53B2F5; text-decoration: none; } a:visited {color:#53B2F5} a:active {color:#53B2F5} a:hover {color:#53B2F5} </style> </head> <body> <p>By William Pesek</p> <p>Even for gaffe-prone Rick Perry, it was a cringe-worthy blunder.</p> <p>The Republican hopeful put out a press release last week to comment on the death of Kim Jong Il. It described North Korea's leader as Kim Jong the Second, mistaking one of his names as a Roman numeral denoting him as the second generation of the Kim dynasty. It made headlines in Asia, where the current crop of GOP candidates aren't known for foreign-policy expertise.</p> <p>Now that Kim Jong the Third, errr, Kim Jong Un, is taking over, there's reason to worry about unhelpful comments on the U.S. election trail.</p> <p>Since the death of Osama bin Laden, Republicans have been looking for an Obama foreign-policy soft spot on which to focus. Few have emerged, with Obama being largely on the right side of the Arab Spring and fulfilling a pledge to get American troops out of Iraq. With the Iowa caucuses days away, Republican-nominee hopefuls may try to score points on Korea.</p> <p>The risk is that they will bring the anti-Pyongyang talk to a rhetorical Def-Con 4. Any George W. Bush-like chatter of regime change might spook Kim Jong Un into proving his mettle. The untested 20-something may feel cornered and react by lobbing missiles South Korea's way or greenlighting nuclear tests.</p> <p>The imponderables are stacking up and working their way through markets. Consumer confidence in South Korea fell to a three-month low in December out of concern that the political outlook will worsen in the wake of Kim Jong Il’s death. It slid to 99 from 103 in November. A reading below 100 indicates pessimists outnumber optimists.</p> <p>This argument isn't in favor of appeasement. No tears should be shed for Kim's tyrannical reign, which favored investing in nuclear weapons while 2 million people starved. Yet this is no time to telegraph threats a world away. The Rick Perrys, Newt Gingriches and Mitt Romneys may just be political posturing. The young and possibly paranoid leader of nuclear North Korea may not get the distinction.</p> <p>(William Pesek is a Bloomberg View columnist.)</p> </body> </html>