As North Korea issues increasingly over-the-top threats, officials in Washington have sought to reassure the public and U.S. allies. But the risk of nuclear war on the Korean Peninsula is far from remote--and the United States should adjust its military planning accordingly.
Kim Jong Un bows to statues of his grandfather and father. (Courtesy Reuters)
One year ago, the chubby and blubbering soon-to-be leader of the Democratic People's Republic of Korea was seen walking alongside the hearse that carried his dead father, Kim Jong Il. Kim Jong Un was young, inexperienced, unqualified, and bereft of any of the larger-than-life myths that had sustained his father's and grandfather's rules. And yet, just days later, he assumed power in the only communist dynasty in the world.
Today, the junior Kim can be seen riding high in Pyongyang. And last week, he became the first Korean to launch a domestically designed satellite into orbit on the back of a domestically designed rocket. But more broadly, some analysts see him as pushing his own version of reform. His new ways might not exactly be Gangnam style, but they are undeniably a break from the past. He promulgates high heels and miniskirts for women and commissions amusement parks and (pirated) Walt Disney productions for children. Never too busy to ride rollercoasters and frolic with school kids, the prince of Pyongyang also found time to take on a wife, Ri Sol-Ju, whom the New York Times compared to the British Duchess Kate Middleton.