North Korean leader Kim Jong Un and President Donald Trump dismiss one another as irrational, warmongering heads of state, but experts say both men are more prone to theatrics than military action.
After months of flexing their respective armed forces, neither Trump nor Kim has backed off from the nuclear standoff that has developed on the Korean Peninsula, but those closely following the crisis said the chance of the two reluctantly finding common ground is greater than that of an all-out war. Despite harsh reactions to North Korea’s recent release of a detailed plan to strike the U.S. island territory of Guam, intelligence analyst Joseph Bermudez emphasized Thursday that Kim, the world’s youngest head of state, is doing what he can to prove he can lead his country while dealing with a particularly hostile U.S. administration.
“Kim Jong Un is not a stupid person. He is a very intelligent person. He is nuanced. He might be inexperienced at the international level,” Bermudez said during a telephone conference call hosted by North Korea monitoring group 38 North, to which he is a frequent contributor.
“What we have to take into consideration is that he is the leader of the nation, a militarily powerful nation,” he added. “He operates under a different set of requirements than other nations and leaders. He is operating on what he believes, on what his advisors believe, is the best for their country.”
More than six years have passed since Kim became North Korea’s third-generation leader, a position he inherited following his father’s death in 2011. Since then, analysts have observed modest reforms in the way the economy is structured and a greater willingness on the leadership’s part to seek advice from various experts and social scientists within the country. Robert Carlin, a visiting scholar at Stanford University’s Center for International Security and Cooperation and former chief of the Northeast Asia Division of the State Department’s Bureau of Intelligence and Research, says this change in attitude seems to have contributed to Kim’s military…