(CNN) – There’s real concern among U.S. officials, and analysts, that another provocative move by North Korea’s leader is imminent.
CNN has learned, America’s intelligence and military leaders are watching Kim Jong Un with growing unease, fearing the young North Korean leader – with questionable stability and a penchant for violence – may have now perfected building a nuclear weapon, and may be preparing to test it.
CNN has learned Kim’s regime could be preparing to launch a mobile ballistic missile, something it has never done.
One long-range missile official believes the North Koreans could fire and could hit American territory on Guam or the Aleutian Islands.
But there’s another, more frightening possibility. Rick Fisher from the International Assessment and Strategy Center says, “The scary scenario is that North Korea may launch its KN-14 ICBM (Inter-Continental Ballistic Missile). We’ve just learned that they’ve tested the ICBM engine. It may have new fuels that give it far greater energy and range. And with that range, the KN-14 can possibly reach Washington, DC.”
The North Koreans would first have to flight-test that missile, which they likely haven’t done yet. But the concern is that the regime is accelerating its nuclear weapons and missile capability, under a leader who’s becoming more warlike, each week.
A U.S. intelligence official told CNN Kim is challenging his international rivals with provocative and threatening behavior. Could he be ratcheting up his weapons program because he’s under threat from inside?
Patrick Cronin from the Center for a New American Security says, “Kim Jong Un has to be under enormous internal pressure, from political elites and military elites. He has to demonstrate that he is a credible, strong, unifying leader. He’s trying to do this by having unprecedented weapons. He’s killing people. He’s eliminating opponents. And that incurs a price.”
A top senator on the Intelligence Committee asked if Kim is ‘rational’ said unequivocally, “no”.
Sen. James Risch, (R) Intelligence Committee, says, “The kinds of things that he’s doing, you’d wonder whether they have a death wish.”
Most analysts won’t go as far as saying Kim is ‘crazy’. But they worry that in his zeal to fight off his enemies – and project his power – he’ll miscalculate.
Cronin says, “He is potentially reckless. He is divorced from reality. Both of those attributes could contribute to war. So we don’t have to make a judgment psychologically, as to whether he’s crazy or sane. He’s dangerous.”
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