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Kim Jong-un: Can US trust North Korean leader to act rationally?

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“But the fact is that this is the wrong way to go. The action that he’s taken and the actions they’ve taken and the words he’s used, it is not going to project a more responsible, accountable relationship.”

That seems evident. But how clear is it that Kim knows what he’s doing, anyway? And is he, in fact, the one in charge? Or could he be vying for power with, say, North Korean military leaders? 

On this question, Mr. Hagel appeared, publicly at least, to have little interest in a North Korean version of Kremlinology. “Well, he’s the leader,” he said. “I mean, he’s the leader of North Korea.” 

Defense analysts say that there are indeed some hints that Kim may be losing his hold on the military.

There have been defections of small units of North Korean soldiers to China – soldiers who were subsequently turned around and sent back to North Korea, says retired Brig. Gen. Russell Howard, former commander of the 1st Special Forces Group, which has an Asia focus.

This may seem like a positive development, but it is a problem because it means that Kim may feel the need to reassert his control over the military, by beating the war drum and trying to get his troops to rally around it. The more he needs their support, the harder he might beat the drum.

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