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He’s said to be a chain-smoking, beer-drinking, maniacal tyrant who binges on Swiss cheese while his people starve. Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., called him a “crazy fat kid.” President Trump scolded him for “acting very, very badly.” The Chinese were apparently asked to scrub the Internet of references to his nickname, “Kim Fatty the Third.”

In his most wide-reaching display of “crazy,” North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un, 33, freely taunts the world by testing missiles, leading to speculation that a sixth nuclear test could be in the near future.

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Communist North Korea tested another rocket engine on Friday that could be part of their development of an intercontinental ballistic missile, according to reports. This follows another test launch just a month ago, and the New Year’s Day announcement by the North Korean dictator that the country was in the final stages of test-launching an intercontinental ballistic missile.

The website 38 North, which provides analysis by the U.S.-Korea Institute at Johns Hopkins University, published new satellite imagery of North Korea on Wednesday that appeared to show increased activity at the Punggye-ri nuclear test site, indicating that North Korea could be in the final stages of preparing for a nuclear test.

“This clearly is one of those preparatory steps that take them to an intercontinental ballistic missile that really works,” said Gordon Chang, author of “Nuclear Showdown: North Korea Takes on the World.”

Intercontinental ballistic missiles, or ICBMs, have a minimum range of about 3,400 miles, but could be developed to travel further. North Korea has the missile power to strike the U.S., Chang said.

“They already have 3 missiles that can hit the lower 48 states,” Chang said, citing North Korea’s arsenal that includes the Taepodong-2, KN-08 and the KN04 missiles.

Chang believes that Pyongyang is less than four years away from putting a nuclear warhead on an intercontinental ballistic missile that could reach the U.S. mainland.

“What they’re working on with these engine tests,” Chang explains, is “an engine for a new missile that would be more powerful than anything they have in their inventory. They’re making fast progress, and they’re not being restrained. We’ve got to change our policies.”

Isolating North Korea is not enough, Chang said.

“It’s about Iran, Pakistan, North Korea and China,” he said. “And when we talk about China being in the mix, you just can’t have a China policy on North Korea, you have to have a China policy on all the issues – the South China Sea, cyber-attacks, you name it. You have to get China right, and all these other countries right, otherwise you don’t have a chance” of having an effective North Korea policy.

During U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson’s first official trip to South Korea, he told Fox News that “nothing has been taken off the table,” when asked whether he would rule out allowing defensive nukes on the Korean peninsula.

Shrouded in secrecy and clouded by propaganda, Kim Jong Un’s motivation is difficult to decipher. Is it to strike at the West, conquer South Korea or simply to hang on to the power passed on to him from his father and grandfather?

“The end game of the North Korean regime has always been the maintenance of the Kim family rule,” Chang says, shedding some light on the deeply isolated country’s objectives. “The Kim family rule rests on one legitimizing goal – and that is to rule over all of the Korean peninsula, the destruction of the South Korean state.”

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Kim Jong Un maintains the vision set by his grandfather, the founder and “eternal president” of North Korea, Kim Il Sung, who was installed by Joseph Stalin. He trained his son, Kim Jong Il, for more than 20 years to take over, Chang said, and Jong Ill in turn spent a little over two years preparing his own son to rule.

The future of the Kim dynasty is uncertain, as Kim Jong Un has no successor. His brother, Kim Jong Chul is not seen as a worthy successor. The authoritarian’s sister, Kim Yo Jong, was considered to have been the most capable according to Chang, but in a male-dominated Confucian society, a woman cannot rule the country.

Given his age, Kim could remain in place for decades. Given what is known about his health and his growing list of enemies, it could be substantially less.

According to Chang, “there is a lot that we don’t know about his attitudes toward foreigners. His father traveled to China a number of times. Kim Jong Un has not left the country since he became ruler of North Korea.”

Though on paper, North Korea and China appear to be important allies, North Koreans harbor a deep-seated hatred toward the Communist superpower on their northern border.

“North Koreans may use us as propaganda, but they would be willing to do a deal with the U.S. if it meant they would not have to deal with the Chinese, who they resent, they hate, they despise,” Chang said. “The thing we have to remember is that we have been North Korea’s enemy since the end of the 1940s. China has been the enemy of the Korean people for millennia.”

Chang said Kim Jong Un’s long-term goal is to end the U.S.-South Korea military alliance.

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“Without the U.S., he feels he could intimidate and ultimately absorb South Korea,” he said, achieving Jong-un’s goal of ruling over the entirety of the Korean peninsula.

Chang points to obvious signs of Kim Jong Un’s instability – the execution of around 145 senior North Korean officials added to hundreds of junior officials sent to death camps. In terms of total deaths, he says, “I suspect it’s more than we’re thinking.”

“The regime works in ways that are really out of the sight of South Korea or the international community. When a leader executes people, it’s not a stable situation. If it were stable, why would he need to execute people? Execution creates enemies and people wonder – ‘am I next? Do I fight? Do I flee?’”

Chang said that’s why he believes the U.S. should take the North Korea threat seriously.

“One-man systems are the least stable forms of government,” Chang argues. “That’s why we need to be concerned about North Korea’s nuclear weapons, chemical weapons, biological agents, long range missiles, because it’s unstable.”



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