- The former head of the US intelligence community revealed North Korea’s “kryptonite,” which could topple Kim Jong Un’s regime without any military action.
- He suggested leveraging a growing North Korean population of cell phone owners and flooding them with outside information.
- Experts have looked favourably on this option, which has worked to oust other dictatorships in the past, and is feared by Kim Jong Un.
Dennis Blair, a former US Navy Admiral in command of the Pacific fleet and the former Director of National Intelligence, defined what he called North Korea’s “kryptonite” and said it could collapse Kim Jong Un’s regime without firing a shot.
While President Donald Trump’s inner circle reportedly weighs the use of military force against North Korea in what could spiral out into an all-out nuclear war, Blair suggested another method of attack that wields information, not weapons.
“The kryptonite that can weaken North Korea is information from beyond its borders,” Blair said in a written testimony to the Senate Armed Services Committee on Tuesday.
Blair described ordinary North Koreans as having no idea how bad things are in their country due to an “unrelenting barrage of government propaganda.”
North Korean citizens caught with South Korean media can be sentenced to death or removed to horrific prison camps, as control of the media and intolerance for any narrative that differs from the Kim regime’s represent a key pillar of the country’s governance.
But Blair pointed out that the US could leverage a recent trend in North Korea – cell phones. About one in five North Koreans own a cell phone, and, according to Blair, many of the devices can connect to Chinese cell towers across the Yalu river on North Korea’s border with China.
“Texts to these cell phones can provide subversive truth,” Blair writes. “Cell towers can be extended; CDs and thumb drives can be smuggled in; radio and TV stations can be beamed there.”
“The objective is to separate the Kim family from its primary support – the secret police, the Army and the propaganda ministry,” Blair writes.
Although outside media does get into North Korea, and reaches the country’s elites, the US could expand efforts to flood the rogue nation with outside news. To combat the Soviet Union and its state-controlled media, the US took a similar step by setting up Radio Free Europe and Radio Free Asia during the Cold War.
When a former US Navy SEAL floated a similar idea in 2017, Yun Sun, a North Korea expert at the Stimson Center told Business Insider it had legs.
“Kim Jong Un understands that as soon as society is open and North Korean people realise what they’re missing, Kim’s regime is unsustainable, and it’s going to be overthrown,” Sun said.
Sun pointed out that when South Korea had previously flown balloons that dropped pamphlets and DVDs over North Korea, the Kim regime had responded militarily, sensing the frailty of its government relative to those of prosperous liberal democracies.
Blair pointed to the fall of other totalitarian states where popular uprisings took down a media-controlling dictator, concluding his testimony by saying that once the process of introducing outside information starts, “it is hard to stop. Such will be North Korea’s fate.”