Once again, North Korean leader Kim Jong Un has demonstrated his audacity. Early Friday morning, North Korea launched its second inter-continental ballistic missile (ICBM). And with the launch, the North Korean leader announced his “great satisfaction” (via Fox News). The missile, which landed in the Sea of Japan, reportedly has a range that would allow it to reach the U.S. And, that reach would not be just the West Coast or Alaska. As far inland as Denver and Chicago are its reported reach.
For now, North Korea does not appear to have mastered the capability of attaching a nuclear warhead to its ICBMs. But, that ability is also reportedly not far away. North Korea could have that know-how as soon as early next year.
Just how dangerous is North Korea’s leader, Kim Jong Un? And, would he be audacious enough to actually launch a nuclear missile at the U.S.? Prior actions often portend future behaviors.
Killing of Half-Brother, Kim Jong Nam
Earlier this year Kim Jong Nam, the half-brother of Kim Jong Un, was sprayed with “an unidentified liquid” (via Business Insider). This happened at the Kuala Lumpur Airport in Malaysia on February 13. Shortly after being sprayed, Kim sought “help at an information desk because he felt dizzy,” Malaysian police said (via the Guardian). He died on the way to the hospital. Both U.S. and South Korean officials say this was an assassination ordered by Kim Jong Un.
Summary Executions and Torture
A report from December 2016 claimed the Kim Jong Un has “ordered 340 people to be executed since he came to power in 2011” (via CNN). He orders these executions as part of the North Korean policy that he has either framed or kept. They are a way to keep people afraid and compliant. These executions reportedly take place in such public places as “school grounds and marketplaces” (via AOL). While the executions often occur for political reasons, they can also be for more common issues, such as theft. Just last month, American Otto Warmbier was returned to the U.S. in a vegetative state and died just a few days later. He was accused of trying “to steal a propaganda sign from a hotel as a ‘trophy’ for a US church with the ‘connivance of the US administration’ in order to ‘harm the work ethic and motivation of the Korean people’” (via BBC). It is widely suspected that he was tortured, which led to his brain damage, vegetative state and ultimate death. This was either ordered or condoned by Kim Jong Un.
Accusations of Push for Nuclear War
Earlier this month, the North Korean government published accusations, calling the U.S. and South Korea “warmongers who are trying to ignite the fuse of a nuclear war on the (Korean) peninsula” (via the Independent). The article, published in the North Korean state newspaper, Rodong Sinmum, went on further to justify “North Korea’s weapons’ tests as ‘legitimate and justified measures’ amid increasing ‘threats of nuclear war’ against Pyongyang by Washington.”
Pre-Emptive Strike Intentions
In April, in another Rodong Sinmum article, Kim Jong Un threatened a “super-mighty pre-emptive strike” that would “immediately wipe out” the U.S. (via the Sydney Morning Herald). North Korea has, over the years and on numerous occasions, threatened to annihilate the U.S. But, never before has it had the capability to actually hit the U.S. with a missile. So far, we are told that the missile capability does not include the attachment of a nuclear warhead. However, that ability may not be far off. But, would Kim actually use the power and try a strike?
According to research from Kaitlyn Talmadge, a George Washington University professor, “in a war, nuclear powers with small arsenals, like North Korea, would feel strong pressure to fire their weapons quickly, even if they believe they will lose” (via the New York Times). This could mean that North Korea might feel its best chance to have a successful nuclear hit is with a pre-emptive strike. If it waited too long, it could be disarmed by a stronger adversary.
Both the audacity and danger of Kim Jong Un should not be underestimated. He has demonstrated in the past his willingness to take out his enemies. He is like most tyrannical leaders. He wants to stay in power and by any means. That means that the U.S. and the world need to take him seriously and work hard to neutralize his capabilities. His intentions may be to unify North and South Korea and get on a more level playing field with the U.S. But when pushed into a corner, he might decide a push of the button is the only alternative. And, that would not be good.
[Featured Image by AsiaPac/Getty Images]