Is the leader of North Korea really thinking of going to war?

Experts on North Korea, who are generally circumspect individuals who try to prevent spreading fear, have been severely shaken by two of their own. The two distinguished analysts dropped a bomb last week when they declared that they thought the head of the pariah state was getting ready for war. They claimed that Kim Jong Un had abandoned the fundamental objective of making amends and reunifying with South Korea. Rather, he portrays the North and South as two sovereign entities engaged in conflict with one another.

Such a declaration sparked a heated discussion among those who follow North Korea and raised alarms in Seoul and Washington. The majority of analysts, however, reject the war theory; when the BBC contacted seven specialists in Asia, Europe, and North America, none of them endorsed the notion. “It is not in line with North Korea’s values to gamble their entire system on a potentially catastrophic conflict.” They have shown themselves to be really Machiavellian,” says Christopher Green, a Netherlands-based Crisis Group analyst who follows Korea.

He and others observe that political pressures exist at home as well as that the North frequently takes action to force Western countries to the negotiation table. All experts concur, however, that Mr. Kim’s rule has become more hazardous and that his rising bellicosity cannot be disregarded. While the majority feel that war is still unlikely, others worry that a more constrained attack may yet be imminent. Those who closely follow Kim Jong Un in North Korea are accustomed to his warnings of nuclear war, but some claim Pyongyang’s most recent communications are different. His military fired artillery across the border six days after he declared on New Year’s Eve that “a war can break out on the Korean peninsula at any time.”

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