Kim Jong Un waves at participants in the Sixth Congress of the Democratic Women's Union of Korea, November 2016.
KCNA / Reuters

Western commentators often treat North Korean Supreme Leader Kim Jong Un as a joke. In private conversations I have heard U.S. administration officials and military leaders occasionally refer to him as a “fat boy,” a “young playboy,” and a “laughingstock.” Ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley has even publicly questioned whether he is crazy. Yet calling the North Korean leader names is a mistake, not because it is rude but because it underestimates his abilities. Kim is no buffoon. To treat him like one is to misunderstand the threat posed by North Korea and its leader—an especially grave

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