U.S. Commander: North Korean Leader May Not Be Consistently ‘Rational’

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un inspects the command of the Korean People's Army in this undated picture, released earlier this month by official state media. The head of U.S. military forces in the Pacific said Kim does not appear to consistently make decisions in a rational manner.
National Journal
Rachel Oswald
Jan. 23, 2014, 9:15 a.m.

The head of U.S. mil­it­ary forces in the Pa­cific on Thursday ques­tioned wheth­er North Korea’s Kim Jong Un con­sist­ently makes lu­cid and lo­gic­al de­cisions.

Kim’s “be­ha­vi­or” — or at least what has been re­por­ted out of the no­tori­ously isol­ated coun­try — “would make me won­der wheth­er “¦ he is al­ways in the ra­tion­al de­cision-mak­ing mode, and this is a prob­lem,” U.S. Pa­cific Com­mand head Navy Adm. Samuel Lock­lear said at a Pentagon press brief­ing.

Since com­ing to power in late 2011, Kim has presided over a num­ber of start­ling events in North Korea, in­clud­ing last month’s ex­e­cu­tion of Jang Song Thaek, his uncle and former ad­viser. Last spring, the her­mit na­tion en­gaged in nuc­le­ar saber-rat­tling against South Korea and the United States. Kim also has over­seen long-range mis­sile and nuc­le­ar-device tests, as well as ex­pan­sion of the coun­try’s fis­sile ma­ter­i­al-pro­duc­tion cap­ab­il­it­ies.

These ac­tions have puzzled and un­nerved seni­or U.S. mil­it­ary of­fi­cials, some of whom now worry that the Kim re­gime may not be as stable as was once thought. Were the gov­ern­ment to col­lapse, North Korea could be faced with a power va­cu­um that might jeop­ard­ize the se­cur­ity of the coun­try’s weapons of mass de­struc­tion or sens­it­ive ma­ter­i­als.

“The way ahead with the new lead­er is not clear to me,” said Lock­lear, adding that Kim’s ac­tions have con­trib­uted to mak­ing the re­gion a “very dan­ger­ous place.”

North Korea watch­ers sim­il­arly have said they are un­cer­tain why Py­ongy­ang risked such po­ten­tially re­gime-destabil­iz­ing activ­it­ies as last spring’s brink­man­ship tac­tics with the United States and the more re­cent purge of Jang.

The lat­ter event is par­tic­u­larly mys­ti­fy­ing to some is­sue ex­perts who won­der why Kim al­lowed state-run me­dia to re­port Jang was ex­ecuted for plot­ting to seize power from him. Such an ad­mis­sion would seem to tar­nish the care­fully craf­ted Kim dyn­asty brand of be­ing be­loved by all in North Korea.

More re­cently, Py­ongy­ang has de­man­ded that the U.S. and South Korean mil­it­ar­ies can­cel their an­nu­al joint ex­er­cises, Key Re­solve and Foal Eagle, or risk what North Korea has termed “un­ima­gin­able holo­caust.”

However, Lock­lear said there is no chance of a can­cela­tion.

“We don’t to plan to stop the ex­er­cises; the ex­er­cises are part of the al­li­ance, the corner­stone of how we train and main­tain the al­li­ance,” he said.

What We're Following See More »
STAFF PICKS
What the Current Crop of Candidates Could Learn from JFK
1 days ago
WHY WE CARE

Much has been made of David Brooks’s recent New York Times column, in which confesses to missing already the civility and humanity of Barack Obama, compared to who might take his place. In NewYorker.com, Jeffrey Frank reminds us how critical such attributes are to foreign policy. “It’s hard to imagine Kennedy so casually referring to the leader of Russia as a gangster or a thug. For that matter, it’s hard to imagine any president comparing the Russian leader to Hitler [as] Hillary Clinton did at a private fund-raiser. … Kennedy, who always worried that miscalculation could lead to war, paid close attention to the language of diplomacy.”

Source:
STAFF PICKS
Maher Weighs in on Bernie, Trump and Palin
1 days ago
WHY WE CARE

“We haven’t seen a true leftist since FDR, so many millions are coming out of the woodwork to vote for Bernie Sanders; he is the Occupy movement now come to life in the political arena.” So says Bill Maher in his Hollywood Reporter cover story (more a stream-of-consciousness riff than an essay, actually). Conservative states may never vote for a socialist in the general election, but “this stuff has never been on the table, and these voters have never been activated.” Maher saves most of his bile for Donald Trump and Sarah Palin, writing that by nominating Palin as vice president “John McCain is the one who opened the Book of the Dead and let the monsters out.” And Trump is picking up where Palin left off.

Source:
×