In testimony before Congress on Wednesday, a top North Korean defector warned that dictator Kim Jong Un wants to be able to launch a nuclear strike at the United States because the capability would clear the way for an invasion of South Korea.
Thae Yong Ho was North Korea’s No. 2 diplomat in the United Kingdom before defecting in 2016.
He said that Pyongyang’s program to develop a nuclear weapon capable of reaching the continental United States wasn’t just a security measure but a pivotal step in an invasion of South Korea.
“While Kim Jong Un has already long had the tools to destroy South Korea effectively, he also believes it is necessary to drive American forces out of the peninsula,” Thae told the House Foreign Affairs Committee, according to the Washington Examiner.
“And this can be done, he believes, by being able to credibly threaten the continental United States with nuclear weapons.”
At present, 25,000 American troops are on the southern part of the Korean Peninsula as a deterrent against an invasion from the North.
“Today, Kim Jong Un thinks that only nuclear weapons and ICBMs can help him avert the continuing disintegration of the North Korean system,” the defector said.
Part of the problem, Thae told Congress, is that Kim is ignorant about just what America’s military can do to his country.
“Frankly, Kim Jong Un is not fully aware of the strength and might of American military power,” Thae told the House.
“Because of this misunderstanding, Kim Jong Un genuinely believes that he can break the sanctions regime apart once he compels Washington to accept North Korea’s new status after successfully completing the development of his ICBM program and putting the new missiles into deployment.”
He added that Pyongyang thinks the greatest threat to the regime involves a prosperous South Korea and the increased access of his people to media from the South — media that shows the relative prosperity to the impoverished residents of the North’s crumbling system.
“(T)he existence of a prosperous and democratic South Korea so close to the border is, by itself, a major threat towards his dynasty,” he said.
Thae also proposed a radical solution: President Trump meeting with Kim Jong Un to work out the issue, presumably without preconditions.
“It is necessary to reconsider whether we have tried all nonmilitary options before we decide that military action against North Korea is all that is left,” Thae said, according to The Washington Times.
“Before any military action is taken, I think it is necessary to meet Kim Jong-un, at least once, to understand his thinking and try to convince him that he would be destroyed.”
The United States has generally refused to meet with North Korea unless Pyongyang halts its nuclear development program, although Secretary of State Rex Tillerson hinted earlier this year that the United States would consider dialogue with Pyongyang if missile testing was halted.
Barring that, Thae encouraged another round of sanctions against the regime “until the North Korean regime comes back to the dialogue table for denuclearization.”
The fact that Kim Jong Un apparently thinks being abthat nuking the United States is a good way to start an invasion of South Korea proves just how out of touch this man is. How much stock you take in Thae’s testimony is certainly up to you, but one thing is for certain: We aren’t dealing with a rational actor in Pyongyang, and his unsound tactics could end up with millions dying.