North Korea first expressed interest in developing a nuclear weapons program a few years after the state was founded under the rule of Kim Il-sung in 1948. Fears about the dictatorial regime’s intentions only worsened when they withdrew from the international nuclear disarmament treaty in 2003. They faced sanctions three years later following six weapons tests and have since amassed an arsenal of up to 30 missiles and enough fissile material to make 60 additional nuclear weapons, a 2019 report revealed. Kim Jong-un was celebrated within the state for achieving the nuclear ambitions of his grandfather, the nation’s first leader. But according to North Korea expert Chris Mikul the suspected motive behind the plan may not be to use the weapons but instead to ensure their dictatorial regime never falls.
Over the last week, tensions have continued to rise between the hermit state and South Korea, with the leader’s sister Kim Yo-jong threatening military action.
Her remarks came after anti-Kim Jong-un pamphlets and aid were sent across the border into the state by defectors, in what was perceived as a bid to undermine the state.
This hostility climaxed today (Tuesday), when an office for inter-Korean liaisons in the northern state was “completely destroyed” in a “terrific explosion”.
The aggressive action signalled North Korea’s growing fury at the south, which furthered the claims that they will enter previously disarmed border areas – as agreed under a 2018 treaty.
Previously, Kim Yo-jong blasted South Korea for its interference, where she branded the south “human scum” and a “mongrel dog”.
Fears about instability from the dictatorship continue to rise, more so with the knowledge that they have nuclear options.
But Chris Mikul, who wrote about the Kim dynasty in his 2019 book ‘My Favourite Dictators’, does not believe they will ever use their world-ending weapons.
He told Express.co.uk: “We know he has got nuclear weapons now, which makes him the most successful Kim because he has managed to attain a goal they were trying to achieve since the Sixties.
“The reason they want nuclear weapons is because they know it’s an insurance policy that will keep the regime in power forever – and he’s done it.”
Mr Mikul claims that the stockpile could have been developed to secure their regime and avoid outside influence or threats to the state’s leadership.
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Despite the perceived threat of any nation developing a nuclear programme, he believes their move was more symbolic and meant to act as a deterrent, rather than a declaration of ill-intent or war.
He said: “In my opinion, he won’t pull the trigger because it would end up in the destruction of North Korea, so maybe it’s good for him to stay there now.”
Mr Mikul’s beliefs about Kim Jong-un stem from the leader being “essentially westernised” and the “most liberal” of the nation’s three rulers.
His understanding of culture outside of the North Korean norm originated from years studying in Switzerland where he reportedly developed a love for basketball and video games.
By contrast, the leader’s father Kim Jong-il “barely left” the state and was only exposed to western culture though being a “massive film buff”.
The writer added: “You can see why there is a big difference between him and the other leaders of North Korea.
“To me there are a lot of signs that he is a more benevolent character and the reason is because he is different at heart… that said, he is still a brutal dictator.”
Since 1984, North Korea has carried out 147 strategic missile tests – of which, 119 were made under Kim Jong-un’s orders.
The leader admitted to a number of failed tests during that period but now has nuclear weapons and was considered a threat to the world by US Pentagon officials.
John Hyten warned they were assembling missiles “as fast as anybody on the planet”.
Chris Mikul’s 2019 book ‘My Favourite Dictators’ was published by Headpress and is available here.