North Korea's elaborate game of chicken with U.S.
April 3rd, 2013
08:54 AM ET

North Korea's elaborate game of chicken with U.S.

By Elise Labott

Kim Jong Un’s latest threats against the United States may be even more apocalyptic than Kim Jong Il’s. But the Obama administration still believes the young North Korean leader is reading from a page in his father’s playbook.

One senior administration official described the tried-and-true play as something like this: “Talk tough and scare people. Follow that with some kind of provocation. Then at some point of your choosing, step back, put your weapons down and say, ‘Well, we won that round. What are you going to do for us?’ It’s the classic North Korea provocation-extortion cycle.”

U.S. officials can’t guarantee the North Koreans will play it this way now. They do fully expect some type of tactical action from the North in the form of anything from a nuclear test to a computer hacking to a shelling of South Korea. But they point to natural biorhythms in North Korea that suggest the regime cannot sustain the current tempo. With the spring planting season approaching in a few weeks, North Korean soldiers will have to return to their fields and the regime will be forced to choose between target practice on paper maps of the United States and feeding their people.

“The operating assumption is that we don’t think he is going to stay too far from this pattern,” the official said of the new North Korean leader. “There may be lower lows and sharper threats that come thick and faster now, but a lot is driven by the North’s own internal requirements. At some point, this will end because they need help. And we expect to be finding ourselves hearing the North Korea sweet sounds asking for economic help. If we can get there without real bloodshed, this is not overly concerning.”
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Opinion: Kim Jong Un is not crazy
April 2nd, 2013
03:24 PM ET

Opinion: Kim Jong Un is not crazy

By Stephan Haggard, Special to CNN

Editor's note: Stephan Haggard is professor at the School of International Relations and Pacific Studies at the University of California, San Diego. He is the co-author of "Famine in North Korea" (2008) and "Witness to Transformation: Refugee Insights into North Korea" (2011) and co-editor with Marcus Noland of a blog about North Korea.

(CNN) - March brought us a series of what pundits like to call "provocations" by North Korea. On closer inspection, Pyongyang has opted for rhetoric over actual military actions.

While Kim Jong Un's pursuit of nuclear and missile capability remains worrisome, escalating signals of resolve could suggest nervousness as much as strength.

So, is the regime in trouble?

Read the full take on CNN's OPINION page.

 


Filed under: Kim Jong-un • North Korea
House Homeland Security member: North Korea not bluffing
March 31st, 2013
03:21 PM ET

House Homeland Security member: North Korea not bluffing

By: CNN's Gregory Wallace

Rep. Peter King, former chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee, said Sunday that the recent provocative, warmongering rhetoric out of North Korea is no "empty threat."

He qualified that by explaining he does not fear the North launching a successful attack on the U.S. mainland, but is concerned North Korean leader Kim Jong Un "is trying to establish himself ... trying to be the tough guy," and may "box himself in" and need to display some level of military might.

"My concern would be that he may feel to save face he has to launch some sort of attack on South Korea, or some base in the Pacific," King, R-New York, said on ABC's "This Week."

Read full story at CNN's Political Ticker

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Filed under: Kim Jong-un • North Korea • Peter King
March 29th, 2013
05:56 PM ET

No end in sight for North Korea tensions

By Chris Lawrence

While North Korea continues to elevate threats against the United States and its allies, the Pentagon has not seen anything "out of the ordinary" around key missile sites, a defense official told CNN on Friday.

But the heightened rhetoric over nuclear attacks, so far unmatched by any actual military moves, has no foreseeable endgame, a second defense official said.

"This could go on for a while, and we could see variations of the rhetoric," the second official said.

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un has approved a plan to put rockets on standby to fire at U.S. targets, including the American mainland and military bases in the Pacific and in South Korea, state media reported Thursday.

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U.S. lawmaker questions North Korean leader's 'stability'
March 17th, 2013
05:11 PM ET

U.S. lawmaker questions North Korean leader's 'stability'

By Matt Smith CNN

A top U.S. congressman expressed concern about the "stability" of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un after months of provocative statements and behavior from the nuclear-armed communist state.

"You have a 28-year-old leader who is trying to prove himself to the military, and the military is eager to have a saber-rattling for their own self-interest," said Rep. Mike Rogers, the chairman of the House Intelligence Committee. "And the combination of that is proving to be very, very deadly."

North Korea launched a satellite into orbit atop a long-range rocket in December, conducted its third nuclear weapons test in February and announced earlier this month that it was abandoning the 1953 armistice that ended the Korean War.

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Filed under: Kim Jong-un • North Korea • Rep. Mike Rogers
March 13th, 2013
06:16 PM ET

Material in North Korea's nuclear test unclear, worrying for U.S.

By Jill Dougherty and Pam Benson

More than a month after North Korea tested a nuclear device, the United States is unable to pinpoint whether the regime was able to use uranium to fuel the explosion, a capability that would represent a significantly enhanced nuclear program.

The lack of clarity comes as North Korea ratchets up its bellicose rhetoric each day.

New video broadcast on North Korean television showed the nation's leader, Kim Jong Un, addressing his troops along the border on Monday and issuing a blood-chilling threat, "Throw all enemies into the caldron, break their waists and crack their windpipes." It was the same location he and his late father visited in November 2010, just two days before the North shelled an island, killing four South Koreans.

The bellicose comments have been intensifying over the past months, increasing worry about Kim's unpredictability.

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March 12th, 2013
04:02 PM ET

Cyberattacks, N. Korea, jihadist groups top U.S. threats

By Mariano Castillo and Chelsea Carter

Cyberattacks pose more of an eminent threat to the United States than a land-based attack by a terrorist group, while North Korea's development of a nuclear weapons program poses a "serious threat," the director of national intelligence told Congress on Tuesday.

The warning by Director of National Intelligence James Clapper came in his annual report to Congress of the threats facing the United States. It was one of the rare times since the September 11, 2001, attacks that terrorism was not the leading threat facing the nation.

"Attacks, which might involve cyber and financial weapons, can be deniable and unattributable," Clapper said prepared remarks before the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence. "Destruction can be invisible, latent and progressive."

The Internet is increasingly being used as a tool both by nations and terror groups to achieve their objectives, according to Clapper's report.

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Is Kim Jong Un more dangerous than his father?
The late Kim Jong Il (left) and his son Kim Jong Un (right), the current leader of North Korea
March 7th, 2013
06:57 PM ET

Is Kim Jong Un more dangerous than his father?

By Elise Labott

North Korea's threat to launch a preemptive nuclear strike against the United States has puzzled American officials, who see the regime ramping up its threats and rhetoric.

It's leading to the belief that North Korean leader Kim Jong Un is more unpredictable, more dangerous and harder to read than his late father, Kim Jong Il.

"The new leader is acting in ways a bit more extreme than his father, who was colder and more calculated," a senior administration official said. "Kim Jong Il was more aware of the off-ramps to end these escalations.

"I don't recall he ever went this far in terms of the pace and scope of the rhetoric. Threatening to launch nukes directly against the United States and South Korea confirms what a lot of people have been saying, which is we are dealing with someone new," the official added.

Comparing Kim Jong Il, who died last December, to a chess player, the official said the son is more like a boxer.
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March 4th, 2013
02:23 PM ET

Official Washington brushes off Rodman visit to North Korea

Dennis Rodman, The basketball diplomat, is back from his trip to north korea-

And he's delivering a message from its leader to President Obama: "call me."

Rodman, the former NBA star, went to North Korea to film a documentary about basketball. And he got to sit courtside next to North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, who's a huge basketball fan.

Rodman got closer to the dictator than U.S. diplomats have.

The man who was known as “The Worm” while playing basketball says he's got a new friend, calling Kim Jong Un a very humble man who loves power and control.

Elise Labott reports.


Filed under: Kim Jong-un • North Korea • Security Brief
February 12th, 2013
06:50 AM ET

North Korea gives John Kerry his first "3 AM" call

By Elise Labott and Barbara Starr

North Korea's nuclear test Tuesday set off a diplomatic scramble for America's new secretary of state as the U.S. national security community began working with other countries to try to determine what North Korea truly achieved.

The test was was not a total surprise, senior administration officials said. North Korea warned the United States and China on Monday that it would be undertaking a nuclear test, two senior administration officials told CNN. The warning came in the form of a message through the "NY channel," which is the U.S. mission to the United Nations, North Korea's typical method for passing messages to the United States. The warning was not specific on timing, but the officials said Washington took it to mean the test could happen at any moment.

After the test was detected late Monday night, Secretary of State John Kerry spoke with South Korea's foreign minister. He's also expected to talk with the foreign ministers for China, Japan and Russia. The United States began coordinating its own response with inter-agency calls between Washington and Seoul, Tokyo, Moscow and Beijing. U.S. Ambassador to South Korea Sung Kim and Gen. James Thurman, commander of the US-Republic of Korea Combined Forces Command, met with the South Korean defense minister.

The U.S. intelligence community and military began the process of assessing the test and North Korea's claims and by morning concluded an underground nuclear test had probably been conducted.
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