Kim Jong-un’s goal is simply survival

The Guardian reports: At the end of a week in which North Korean leader Kim Jong-un shattered the illusion that his rule would mark a departure from bellicosity, signs are emerging that there may be method in his apparent madness.

His motivation is not war, but simple regime survival, top-level defectors in the South have told the Guardian. And he wants his future, says one of the regime’s former fundraisers, to be guaranteed by largesse from the same country the North recently threatened with nuclear annihilation: the US.

The 20,000 North Koreans who have made new lives in the South since the end of the Korean war in 1953 are among the few people placed to give reliable insights into a country that often generates more speculative heat thananalytical light.

While they are divided on how far Kim will to go in his campaign to pressure the US and South Korea into offering talks on aid and a peace treaty, they say he is as aware as officials in Washington and Seoul that all-out war and the continuation of his dynasty are mutually exclusive.

“Kim Jong-un’s aim is to unite the North Korean military and people around his regime and win their trust,” said Jang Se-yul, a former mathematics professor who spent 10 years in the cyberwarfare unit of the North Korean army in Pyongyang. “They don’t trust Kim yet, and they’re looking for strong signals from him.”

Jang, who says he talks “two or three times a day” to North Korean workers, soldiers and high-ranking government officials near the Chinese border, where they can receive a mobile phone signal, did not know if Kim’s attempts to endear himself to his people would include military action.

The coming weeks could see more attempts to unsettle the region. Among the options open to Kim are a missile test to mark the 101st anniversary of the birth of the country’s founder, Kim Il-sung, or an attack on islands near the disputed North-South maritime border.

What is certain is that the 30-year-old leader will never abandon the North’s nuclear programme, Jang said: “He is like his father [Kim Jong-il], in that he is threatening the US until he wins a concession and can claim he has orchestrated a victory over the enemy. That is exactly what Kim Jong-un is expecting. He knows he’s causing trouble internationally, but if he steps back, he will never win the trust of his people.

“I witnessed huge celebrations after the regime conducted its first nuclear test in 2006. Now it won’t let go of the fantasy that having nuclear weapons will make it invincible.”

A credible nuclear deterrent is the first step towards extracting aid and other concessions from the US and repairing the damage UN sanctions have inflicted on an already fragile economy. [Continue reading…]

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