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.
"Nobody knows what he has planned, what he is thinking or contemplating doing or why the North Koreans are tripling down on their rhetoric," the official said.
Another senior administration official said Kim's youth and education abroad offered promise for many North Korea watchers that he would be more willing to engage with the West.
"Unfortunately, he is following the example of his father and grandfather pretty closely," the official said. "It's hard to be optimistic."
His grandfather, Kim Il Sung, was the founding leader of North Korea.
Officials said the latest threats, coupled with North Korea's nuclear test last month and its launch of a long-range rocket into space in December, have the United States and South Korea bracing for the possibility of a violent response by Pyongyang to tougher U.N. sanctions approved on Thursday.
They pointed to the 2010 sinking of a South Korean submarine and shelling of a South Korean island.
"It's dangerous to dismiss these threats as just rhetoric and propaganda, the second official said. "It's hard to predict."
Leading up to the U.N. vote, North Korea upped its bellicose rhetoric.
A spokesman for the foreign ministry suggested the United States "is set to light a fuse for a nuclear war."
As a result, North Korea "will exercise the right to a preemptive nuclear attack to destroy the strongholds of the aggressors and to defend the supreme interests of the country," the country said in a statement carried by the state-run Korean Central News Agency.
Despite the strong language, analysts say North Korea is years away from having the technology necessary to mount a nuclear warhead on a missile and aim it accurately at a target. And, analysts say, North Korea is unlikely to seek a direct military conflict with the United States.
North Korea's behavior is even more curious because it comes as South Korea's new president, Park Geun-hye, took office last week calling for new dialogue with the North. Although she pledged a strong defense posture and retaliation against North Korean provocations, she called for easing tensions that grew under her predecessor.
"Given that for five years they were so angry at the previous president, Lee Myung-bak, why would they mortgage the next five years by being so difficult when a new South Korea leader is just taking office," the first official asked. "It's so very concerning."
Officials note that China, North Korea's closest ally, has demonstrated unprecedented frustration with Pyongyang's behavior.
In rare public statements, a top Chinese Communist party official suggested that China abandon North Korea and support unification with South Korea.
"We are in a new territory. Something is happening in China," one of the officials said. "For the North to be acting this way at this time has everyone on edge on what is going on, but nobody has good answers because the country is so opaque. We are trying to find a precedence to explain this."
The worst possible explanation, the official said, "is that the North Koreans don't have a plan. That is when chances for miscalculation are the greatest."
We should attemt to shoot down any and all missles that they might fire, test ot not!
Unfortunately that is deemed an act of war by international law, so it would certainly give them political ammunition that many countries would be compelled to acknowledge. I guess we are technically at war with them, but it would be as irresponsible of an escalation as what the North is doing now.
It's "precedent," not "precedence." C'mon, CNN. Anyway, this is all just political posturing and bluster. While I suspect that there may be some limited conflict in the near future (like a border skirmish), full-out war isn't really in the cards for the Korean Peninsula. If North Korea actually wanted to instigate a full-out war with a country, they would (in my opinion) appear to calm down until all sanctions are lifted, prepare their weapons/army in secret, and blindside the world with an all-out invasion.
I completely agree. But the use of "precedence" was a quote from a Chinese official who probably hasn't quite mastered the English language. A (sic) might have been in order though.
I think that thinking about what he is thinking is a waste of mind. But I think if somebody cut his brain open to find out what he HAD been thinking that would be a good thing.
He looks like an idiot and proven that convincingly through words and actions.
Yep, was so surprised when I read South Korean "Submarine" doesn't anyone check facts?!
Just ask an individual from N. Korea about what you are allowed to see and hear outside of the Country, and what the differences are in reality. "...Most of the time there's a gun aimed at you just out of sight of the camera..." and "...the amount of window dressing is staggering, we are very far behind..."
He's thinking about cheeseburgers.
Can haz cheezbrrgrr not made of cat plz!???!?!?
So much for the rising superpower. China still can't establish a stable hegemony.
Lack of maturity is always dangerous
How about what Kim's Father in Law is thinking that would be the best question to ask
He's just trying to impress his hot wife.
I fear it!
Nobody knows what Obama is thinking either...or if he is even thinking.
Good point and I long for the days when we had Bush because we knew for sure he wasn't thinking. You need a brain to think and Bush lacked even a single neuron.
I hope there's someone in that gov't that is bright enough to realize that if NK would ever launch a premptive nuclear strike against us or any country that it would mean the end of their country. I believe the retaliation would be to wipe NK off the map.
If they snuck a suitcase bomb into SK and detonated it, do you really think USA would launch ICBM's into NK? Answer=NO! China is way too close. There would however be heavy raining of conventional bombs at anything that looked like a launch pad.
You have a chance to make this right. Pull the rug out on NK, and get unification. The world will be a safer, better place.
oh yea... and don't hack me.
When Kim went to school in Europe, he went under a different name.
The fact that he has been brainwashed by his father and grandfather ideologies, makes him a dangerous person, he is there to finish the job the previous leaders set up for him.
He starts a war, loses and then collects BILLIONS in US rebuilding contracts....its as great plan, worked for the iraqis and afghans!
Didn't work too well for Sadam as I recall.
Pff why start a war? Unnecessary. Just 'hold peace talks'. So much more profitable.
The world will be so much more peaceful when he is gone.
No, they'll just find another boogieman, the only people who have to worry about him are S Korea and the Chinese, let them pay for keeping him in check.
Hi, I've got a feeling that he is blustering before beginning a new phase of negotiations. I just wanted to put it here in writing. I have a feeling changes are going to come this spring.
An interesting point and one that has substance. It was the same tactic and his father and grandfather used.
Same tactic diplomats have been using from the beginning of time. There's even a comedy about it starring Peter Sellers – "The Mouse That Roared".
North Korea is like a bully in middle school. Always fluffing up and bragging about how they are going to kick your ass. They must be handled just like a bully! Next time they 'fluff up' you go crazy on their ass and stop it before it has a chance to do you harm. It worked for me and may work for this. We (USA) certainly know where to hit them hard. Is it time now or wait till later? I don't know.
You can only poke a beast so many times until the beast says enough and does something!
This particular bully has a big brother named China. It actually encourages him to be a bully. Prepare to jump them both.
America in 2016.......
Over 20 Trillion in Debt, Constant unemployment of 7 &
8%, Return of a Russian Empire, NY blown off the map by an Iranian/North Korean nuclear weapon, WWIII....... It’s Evening in America.
Thank You Mr. Obama!
There is a treatment for your condition.... Seek it.
In spanish bobo means someone who is not capable of thinking coherently, and makes constant irrelevant statements that do not make sense due to their mental state. You really nail that definition in the head.
Thank God for Obama.
I cant even imagine how bad the mess would be with that Mormon Moron in charge.
By the way, you can thank George Bush for the mess.
Thank you clueless Bush!
No, thank you Mr. Bush. You spent like a democrat and plunged us trillions into useless wars. Now you fade into the sunset and let others own your mistakes.
You are welcome good citizen!!
Is he more dangerous than his father? He has more toys that go boom boom much louder.
I think he is poking fun at our General Burnsides of the past.
His ears have to be cold.
What is Kim thinking? Who cares. The best thing to do is ignore him (i.e. walk softly). Their noise is posturing, and it's not even good posturing.
We can say with some certainty that N Korea WD make one foolish move and lead to reunification
. China WD finally start moving towards democracy
Yeah, we're dealing with someone new, but it's not Kim. It's the military.
I completely agree
he'll never hit washington, they have an NBA franchise–he's a really big fan.
Probabably hit Dennis though.
north korea has no oil, or natural gas and not enough food and no gold or any industry for export other than military armery.. so building nukes is natural progression. they could sell technology in building nuclear power plants. etc. making nukes isn't that hard if this country can make nuclear power plants.
"making nukes isn't that hard if this country can make nuclear power plants."
that made me laugh so hard
in 1992 north korea agreed not to develop nukes but it all changed when BUSH said north korea and iran wer axis of evil....and both countries started building their military...and developing nuclear weaponry as a deterent. nuclear weapons can be deactived its no big deal.
OMG, here we go again. Everyhtings is Bush's fault.
Everything IS Bush's fault.
Hey, bbg. That's true. Live with it.
Quite possibly the dumbest comment on this board. Pick up your marbles and go home hippie.
Kim Jong Phat Phuck is not thinking. North Korea is all about those new dances, the Braindead Knee Jerk and the Run At The Mouth.
The guy craves attention .. and the media takes the bait – every time!
Since he loves basketball so much, have the NBA offer 2 or 3 franchises to him and advising he'll need to cough up about a $1 billion in cash – up front – to get started ... his choice; weapons program .. or NBA participation!
US foreign policy went downhill when BUSH said north korea was the axis of evil...and that was when north korea put resources in building nuclear weapons etc. north korea is 100% building of missles, tanks and guns,,that is it only export.
say kim is the boss is saying obama control US foreign policy...north korea policy is decided by the council and kim is just kid...the policy has been there for decades...prepare for war for 60 years.
Time to send Rodman back, although this time with a suicide bomb strapped to him.
Possibly Jong Un Kim is just doing this for domestic consumption, similar to ridiculous statements Arab governments and media make about destroying Israel, while they know perfectly well they won't start any wars.
Kim Jong is yet another fat baby throwing his weight around. What's really scary is that he's YOUNG, in charge of a communist country, and does whatever his enterage tells him to do. I'm more afraid of all the military idiots he spends 99% of his time with.
Fat boy has been drinking too much soju. He needs to sober up and stop running his mouth.
I say we hit him with a couple of well targeted drone strikes. Just to let him know that we're thinking of him! Modern warfare, ...on the cheap! No presence necessary!
He plays too much Call of Duty Modern War
Kim Jong Un will have to carry out at least one of his threats otherwise he will lose face in the eyes of his people.
True that...There are lots of easy targets with the war games going on. I'm thinking the fate of the Korea's will be rewritten sometime next week.
Kim Jong Un is young and impressionable. He is being guided to all-out war by the old guard within Korea's government and being told that unless he strikes, he will be seen as weak and fall from rule.
He will indeed attempt it.
Keep us up to date with anymore inside information that you receive!
We know exactly what North Korea will do , it is a fact that the USA is a "paper tiger" and the best policy for any nation is to threaten the USA as they will shower you with gifts for doing so ! The only mistake Kim could make is if he failed to MURDER US troops this year then we would have no excuse to give him more $$$ ....relax people Obama has this covered North Korea will be one of the few atomic supper power of the future (the future that does not have the USA in it that is)
I think Rodman gave Kim and this author some of the acid he has been taking for 20+ years.
This "man" probably has no thoughts, certainly no rational thoughts, as he is just sounding off his big mouth.
This is what can happen when you are not responsible for anything.
"Nobody knows what he has planned, what he is thinking or contemplating doing or why the North Koreans are tripling down on their rhetoric," the official said.
Dennis Rodman apparently does.
The problem is he is too young with too much power at his finger tips- I think he is looking for an excuse for war. He feels he has to make a name for himself outside the shadow of his father and grandfather. So now he is trying to project an image of strength, I do think though that he is going to corner himself into a position where he truly will see no other way than to strike. What's to say he cannot send a nuke to the US by boat.
KIm Jong Un is not in power. He is only a figurehead. The real lunatics in power are the same ones who were under his father. Un is powerless as a young leader. He's a puppet.
His head to body size is on the scale of Peter Gabriel's in his "Big Time" music video. Now that is one big, big, big head. LOL
Actually kim jung aung sung sang un un vun is trying to see how he can reduce his headweight.
Just Get china's approval for u.s.a to drop a small nuclear bomb and end it
I'm smoking that one hitter quiter
Hmm... just a drone with a missile would probably be enough;
however, better ask China first.
Why on Earth would China agree to that? Would we agree if China perceived Mexico as a threat to its interests and wanted to start a war there?
I think China went along this time because by doing so , if there is an attack they will know if US is committed and serious about it's intention and could signal weakness if we hesitate. Is the alpha male response theory. Know your enemy, if we back down in case of a NK attack to SK will wave red flags all over to China that they can come over and mess with us.
Nobody knows what Kim Jong Un is thinking?
"the wheel on the bus goes round and round... round and round... round and round..."
Does he know himself?
This is what is going on in the picture...
Kim Jong Il " Eh boi, there is some rice left over in that pot, go get some!"
Kim Jong Un " Oh daddy, you're silly, you know I just ate all the rice in the pot!"
Guy behind Kim Jong Il with that creepy smile " hehehe...pot...hehehe"
the sad truth is that even if NK destroys NK tomorrow and is destroyed in turn the UN and P5+1 will still be talking about the importance of engaging Iran in "useful dialogue" and holding talks in order to reach a reasonable agreement on Iran's desire to create nuclear energy for their peaceful use. There are people who would always rather believe that talk works with nutcase leaders than actually stand up to them.
I meant of course if they destroyed SK tomorrow
How is this at all Dennis Rodman's fault?! Rodman went over there without any political agenda to meet a die hard Chicago Bulls fan (there's a pic of a young KJ Un in Rodman's jersey) and KJ Un basically met one of his childhood heroes. Rodman comes back and simple says, 'Hey he's not all that bad.' And then everyone ridicules, insults, and puts Dennis Rodman down like he's a court jester (granted he's a bit eccentric). We all know how North Korea is and their flaws as a country, but if your father was a socialist dictator you wouldn't know any better either.
I'm not sticking up for KJ Un or North Korea, but look at it this way...
You meet your childhood hero; that person who you idolized as a kid growing up. And you that meeting that person is something that you know could/would/will never happen, but then years later it does! All your childhood memories of being a superstar and larger than life (fantasies we all had when we were younger) come rushing back to you. Then you guys actually hit it off and connect! Then that dream comes to an end, and you remember what your responsibilities to your country are and who are you. Finally, you watch your childhood hero go back and get completely horribly ripped apart and insulted by EVERYONE! Rodman said nothing about the politics; he just commented on KJ Un and the impression he had of him, and how did have we responded....
Good point, but what does it say about someone if he lifelong hero is Dennis Rodman?
Kai, you are a light in an otherwise dark tunnel. Great post.
Kai and Jman, you just don't get it do you? Loyal Americans don't aid our enemies. North Korea invited Rodman over as a propaganda tool, and he was dumb enough to not realize that. Anyone who jumps in the middle of a very tense situation between our country and another one that is threatening to go to war with us deserves the kind of treatment Rodman got. He is probably more of a moron than a traitor, but he doesn't get a free pass just because he is an idiot with zero judgment. The best excuse he could come up with to justify buddying up with their leader is that he was a huge fan of Rodman and the Bulls?
Informative article, hopefully mostly accurate. But of course Kim Jong Il did NOT die "last December," he died in December 2011, so one wonders....
Sure, somebody knows and it's Dennis Rodman. He's perfectly in tune with that zipper head.
It's very plain and simple... Kim Jong Un is more nuts than his late father, Kim Jong Il. The media basically said the same thing about Saddam Hussein's sons, saying that they were more mentally unstable than him. But look at where all of them ended up, killed by the U.S. military after so many years. I believe, over time, that the fate of Kim Jong Un may very well rest in the U.S.'s hands (or perhaps one of our allies).
I agree with the author of this article when they compared Il's way of thinking to like watching or playing a game of chess. However, now that Un is in power, rather than sit back and "analyze" the situation like his father did, he'd rather run off his mouth and threaten to steamroll any country that he views as a threat, unto which he has been developing quite a list lately with countries that he hates. Instead of acting like a coward and having Jay Carney release bonehead statements to the press like "we have advanced weapons to defend the U.S. from such attacks," Obama should personally tell Un that if he goes ahead with such a scenario, then we'll wipe N. Korea off the face of the earth and send them all back to the stone age!! Of course, Obama will never do that, because he's too much of a coward. Plus, it's much easier to have other, more "robotic" people like Carney spew out lies anyway. Lately, however, it seems as if Carney and the Obama administration have been having creditability issues with the media anyway. This does not surprise me as it is not the first time that they have lied to the public in efforts to cover up their own filthy tracks.
Or on the other hand, perhaps POTUS Obama understands the difference between being tough, and talking tough while risking tens of thousands of lives just to save face. Ask anyone who's actually seen NK defenses, and fought in a war and they'll tell you no matter how you cut it, lots of our men and women will die along with the people of the Korean peninsula if this goes down. Victory or not, plenty of ours will DIE. Death is forever my friend. The longer they want to sit behind the DMZ the better. Let them waste away. Obama knows no matter what he says to look like a "tough leader" it's the lives of his loyal service members he's bartering with. Let the elected official do his job. There's still a chance NK's people will get tired of tasteless food and government mandated lack of freedom or fun.
If I were him, I'd be thinking about getting a new barber!!
What is he thinking? Give me a break!!!!!!!!! Thinking,..........at his age? You'd have to reach into his skivies to tell what he's thinking!!!!!! Who comes up with these headlines?
"Another senior administration official said Kim's youth and education abroad offered promise for many North Korea watchers that he would be more willing to engage with the West." ... well remember that Bashir Assad was educated in England, as an opthamologist. All this means is we have a better-educated crazy person, with a better understanding of the west.
Kinda makes me wonder if anyone in North Korea ever heard of Nixon's "Madman theory". This whole situation reeks of it
I just don't get it. This guy is insane and we are buying in to his stupid talk about Pre-emtied strike. We know damn right that the US can wipe that country off the map in an instant. So what is all that talk? It should be ignored and not even reported in the news. But then again, bad news are good news for the news, jejejeje.
It's news because South Korea is one of America's closest allies and North Korea has demonstrated incredible aggression in recent years toward them. Nobody takes their threats toward the U.S. seriously, but toward South Korea, this kind of saber rattling is definitely concerning. It becomes less and less "saber rattling" and more and more "dire risk" after recent attacks on South Korea. North Korea knows that any significant attack on the South will result in U.S. involvement, hence the consistent rhetoric. That's my theory at least. They didn't hesitate to outright attack the South in recent years, so one can assume nothing has changed... when nothing has obviously changed other than more frequent threats. It is news, and if they run more successful long range rocket tests, it'll start getting real interesting.
South Korea is one of the US's closest dependents, not ally.
Yes, he is far more suicidal.
Strange that Un would tell Rodman that he doesn't want war then immediately follow that up with threats of war.
Rodman told him to launch the attack.........that whack NBA mofo!!
Im pretty sure Un said nothing of the sort to Rodman.
You're an idiot.
It seems to me that a possible attack mode that NK could pull off in the near term would be smuggling a nuclear device into SK or the US. Doesn't seem like it would be smart, but, as the article says, who knows? Maybe China will clear this up? Seems like they wouldn't want a nuclear loose canon running around.
I hope that if such an attack or a major threat develops that our military planners are planning a non-nuclear response. Should be easy to wipe out the regime without killing everybody in NK, or starting WW III?
Look at that picture, everyone including KJu looks like they are afraid they could be shot at any moment.
If Kim Jong Un doesn't come up with a better plan for his country than he has for his hair, this situation is going to get ugly in a hurry.
Dennis Rodman might know. But then who knows what Dennis Rodman is thinking?
Saying "we are dealing with someone new" and characterizing him as a "boxer" is bound to encourage more of the same. He is an erratic, despotic, megalomaniact, like his father. And his grandfather Kim Il-song was in no way the "founder" of North Korea. He was a figurehead put in place by the Soviets; the Soviet founded North Korea. He should be shown that an end to the cease fire would not be a good deal for him. We can bring a lot more fire to bear than he can.
Some men just want to watch the world burn.....
This kid just needs food.
And a nap.
Food? Look at him. He needs Jenny Craig... and maybe a time-out.
What is Kim Jong Un thinking? Well, I can tell you at least one of the things that occupy that pea-sized brain of his: FOOD.
This guy is dangerous. He's still a kid, so he thinks he can shoot off his mouth. He just hasn't earned his lumps yet. Well, given enough time he may just have to earn his lumps. Why not put the beast to a test? C'mon, NK, bring it on! See what you get in return!
You mean *taken* his lumps, or earned his *stripes* not "earned his lumps".
Do you really think he is in charge? He is a puppet the real leaders push out front.
And who are the real leaders?
And who are their real leaders?
You really gotta wonder...The old guard probably has their foot in most of the business but then who are their suitors?
It is Kim Jong-Un's uncle, Jang Song-Taek, who is running the show behind the scene after the death of Kim Jong-Il
Agree... there's more than meets the eye. Is he a puppet? Is the entire NK being used as a puppet by someone even more sinister?
Reblogged this on World Chaos.
North Korea is (1) testing the China-DRPK alliance in the face of new Chinese leadership (2) pressing the international community to act and (3) the young Kim is attempting to consolidate his power...
His big mouth is writing checks that his treasury can't cash.
This guy could have been great for his country and lead them out of the mess and problems his father got them into. He could have opened the border and brought peace to the Korean peninsula...instead he takes them closer to the brink. Sad days are ahead.
HEROIN is a harsh mistress
Chubby little bugger ain't he?????He is about to let his alligator mouth overload his hummingbird butt.... Kim Jong Boom was that? Charles Bowen Solomon Stone
,,,,,,,I doubt ths comes from the kid...........I think the kid is simply the figurehead of the NK military......
Do you need a job ?
You seem to have time to spare.
freelance writer here, I would trade my left lung, left cojone, and maybe even develop left-leaning tendencies for a writing job at cnn.com. Do there exist prerequisites beyond noticing poor writing? I'd be fantastic at that. I do believe that your "belief" blog has actually caused my senses to revolt in the form of physical pain a few times...
i'll even throw in extra ellipses for free...
You're wasting your time. The majority of cnn.com "writers" are unpaid interns. The quality of articles should have been a dead giveaway. Maybe instead of offering your left lung and your left cojone you can just accept a zero pay agreement. You write for cnn.com, have your name appear at the top of article, and in return, cnn.com will pay you $0.00 per week. Sound like a deal?
Why, because he's right?
And what would you trade to learn to write properly?
A South Korean Submarine was not sunk it was a South Korean Corvette sunk buy a North Korean submarine CNN edit your articles
Exactly. What wever happened to checking "facts".