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The Education of Kim Jong-un 15 Bigger, Badder, Bolder For the past six years, Kim has poked and prodded, testing and pushing the boundaries of international tolerance for his actions, calculating that he can handle whatever punishment is meted out. To a large extent, he has maintained the initiative on the Korean Peninsula, to the frustration of the United States and his neighbors. And as the U.S. and the international community have imposed ever stricter sanctions, Kim has chosen to double down on his nuclear weapons despite the financial consequences and the increasing international isolation. Just two weeks after North Korean negotiators agreed to the 2012 Leap Day deal with the U.S., which called for a moratorium on Pyongyang’s nuclear and ballistic missile tests in exchange for food aid, the new Kim regime announced its intention to conduct a space launch, using the same ballistic missile technology banned by sanctions. Although that space launch failed, North Korea, despite international condemnation of the April test, had success with its next attempt, when it launched a satellite into orbit in December 2012. By portraying Kim Jong-un as a hands-on leader who personally ordered the rocket launch from a satellite command center, the state media framed their new leader as bold and action-oriented even in the face of widespread international censure. Two months later in February 2013—just a little over a year into Kim’s rule—North Korea conducted its third nuclear test, and Kim’s first. Under Kim, North Korea has pressed the accelerator on nuclear and missile development and has codified its status as a nuclear-armed state by inscribing that description into the revised constitution it issued in 2012. It has also reinforced Kim’s role in advancing these nuclear capabilities, further solidifying his authority over their use. Kim has overseen three more nuclear tests, and debuted and tested new ballistic missiles of various ranges from multiple locations, including a submarine-launched ballistic missile and, in July and November 2017, intercontinental ballistic missiles. 16 Jung H. Pak North Korea shows every indication of making rapid progress toward the ability to threaten the United States and its allies, while also developing an arsenal for survivable second-strike options in the event of a conflict. But it has consistently asserted, as it did in the 2013 Law on Consolidating Position of Nuclear Weapons State, that the regime’s nuclear weapons are for deterrence. Subsequent authoritative statements, including the North Korean foreign minister’s remarks at the United Nations General Assembly in September 2017, have continued to hew to the same line: “[North Korea’s] national nuclear force is, to all intents and purposes, a war deterrent for putting an end to nuclear threat of the U.S. and for preventing its military invasion,” he said, adding that Pyongyang’s ultimate goal is to “establish the balance of power with the U.S.” While Kim has been developing and demonstrating advanced nuclear weapons capabilities, he has also focused on diversifying the North’s toolkit of provocations to include cyberattacks, the use of chemical and biological weapons, and the modernization of North Korea’s military, which is among the world’s largest armed forces with over 1 million warriors. Kim has presided over high-profile artillery firepower demonstrations, been captured in photographs poring over military plans purported to depict attacks against the United States and South Korea, and has issued inflammatory threats in response to U.S. and international pressure. The rhetoric has also extended to threats against those who create negative portrayals of North Korea in popular culture. For example, in 2014, the regime said that the release of the movie The Interview—a comedy depicting an assassination attempt against Kim—would constitute “an act of war”; North Korean hackers threatened 9/11-type attacks against theaters that showed the film. Although a 9/11-type event did not happen, the regime made it clear through a cyberattack that insults against Kim and North Korea would not be tolerated and that the financial consequences for the perpetrators would be dire. North Korean hackers destroyed the North Korea shows every indication of making rapid progress toward the ability to threaten the United States and its allies The Education of Kim Jong-un 17 data of Sony Pictures Entertainment, the company responsible for producing the film, and dumped confidential information, including salary lists, nearly 50,000 Social Security numbers, and five unreleased films onto public file-sharing...


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