One of the highest-ranking members of the North Korean regime ever to defect seemed to confirm the West’s greatest fears — that the Kim regime would use nuclear weapons at the first sign of an imminent threat.
In an interview with NBC’s Lester Holt, Thae Yong Ho, former North Korean deputy ambassador to Britain, said that Kim Jong-un is “desperate in maintaining his rule by relying on his [development of] nuclear weapons and ICBM,” referring to an intercontinental ballistic missile that could hit the United States.
Thae added that once Kim “sees that there is any kind of sign of a tank or an imminent threat from America, then he would use his nuclear weapons with ICBM.”
Thae’s statement comes as the US mulls the prospect of military action against North Korea more openly than ever before, and North Korean experts unanimously tell Business Insider that the nation’s nuclear and missile programs have increased in speed and scope, ramping up to a finished ICBM.
In an interview published in the Financial Times on Sunday, US President Donald Trump looked to China to mitigate the burgeoning crisis between South Korea, Japan, the US, and North Korea, saying “China will either decide to help us with North Korea, or they won’t,” adding that “if China is not going to solve North Korea, we will.”
While experts conclude that the US has the means to unilaterally decapitate the Kim regime, the operation would provoke a counter attack with conventional artillery, and as Thae confirmed, nuclear strikes. Such an operation could easily cost millions of Korean, American, and even Japanese lives.
Thae’s testimony fits with what experts have told Business Insider: The focus of North Korea’s nuclear program has shifted from a bargaining chip — something it could trade away for concessions from the international community — to an insurance policy.
Thae stressed that “Kim Jong-un is a person who did not even hesitate to kill his uncle and a few weeks ago, even his half-brother … So, he is a man who can do anything to remove [anyone in] his way.”
Trump is due to meet with Chinese President Xi Jinping later this week, and has made clear his intentions to talk about North Korea.
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