Skip to main content

U.S. lawmaker questions North Korean leader's 'stability'

By Matt Smith, CNN
March 18, 2013 -- Updated 0336 GMT (1136 HKT)
A picture released by the North Korean Central News Agency shows North Korean leader Kim Jong Un appearing without his cane at an event with military commanders in Pyongyang on Tuesday, November 4. Kim, who recently disappeared from public view for about six weeks, <a href='http://www.cnn.com/2014/10/28/world/asia/kim-jong-un-cyst/index.html'>had a cyst removed</a> from his right ankle, a lawmaker told CNN. A picture released by the North Korean Central News Agency shows North Korean leader Kim Jong Un appearing without his cane at an event with military commanders in Pyongyang on Tuesday, November 4. Kim, who recently disappeared from public view for about six weeks, had a cyst removed from his right ankle, a lawmaker told CNN.
HIDE CAPTION
Kim Jong Un and North Korea's military
Kim Jong Un and North Korea's military
Kim Jong Un and North Korea's military
Kim Jong Un and North Korea's military
Kim Jong Un and North Korea's military
Kim Jong Un and North Korea's military
Kim Jong Un and North Korea's military
Kim Jong Un and North Korea's military
Kim Jong Un and North Korea's military
Kim Jong Un and North Korea's military
Kim Jong Un and North Korea's military
Kim Jong Un and North Korea's military
Kim Jong Un and North Korea's military
Kim Jong Un and North Korea's military
Kim Jong Un and North Korea's military
Kim Jong Un and North Korea's military
Kim Jong Un and North Korea's military
Kim Jong Un and North Korea's military
Kim Jong Un and North Korea's military
Kim Jong Un and North Korea's military
Kim Jong Un and North Korea's military
Kim Jong Un and North Korea's military
Kim Jong Un and North Korea's military
Kim Jong Un and North Korea's military
Kim Jong Un and North Korea's military
Kim Jong Un and North Korea's military
Kim Jong Un and North Korea's military
Kim Jong Un and North Korea's military
Kim Jong Un and North Korea's military
Kim Jong Un and North Korea's military
Kim Jong Un and North Korea's military
Kim Jong Un and North Korea's military
Kim Jong Un and North Korea's military
Kim Jong Un and North Korea's military
Kim Jong Un and North Korea's military
Kim Jong Un and North Korea's military
Kim Jong Un and North Korea's military
Kim Jong Un and North Korea's military
Kim Jong Un and North Korea's military
Kim Jong Un and North Korea's military
Kim Jong Un and North Korea's military
Kim Jong Un and North Korea's military
Kim Jong Un and North Korea's military
Kim Jong Un and North Korea's military
Kim Jong Un and North Korea's military
Kim Jong Un and North Korea's military
Kim Jong Un and North Korea's military
Kim Jong Un and North Korea's military
Kim Jong Un and North Korea's military
Kim Jong Un and North Korea's military
Kim Jong Un and North Korea's military
Kim Jong Un and North Korea's military
Kim Jong Un and North Korea's military
Kim Jong Un and North Korea's military
Kim Jong Un and North Korea's military
<<
<
1
2
3
4
5
6
7
8
9
10
11
12
13
14
15
16
17
18
19
20
21
22
23
24
25
26
27
28
29
30
31
32
33
34
35
36
37
38
39
40
41
42
43
44
45
46
47
48
49
50
51
52
53
54
55
>
>>
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • "We just don't know the stability of their leader," Rep. Mike Rogers says
  • Rogers is chairman of the House Intelligence Committee
  • Analysts debate whether Kim or the North Korean military is really in charge

(CNN) -- A top U.S. congressman expressed concern about the "stability" of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un after months of provocative statements and behavior from the nuclear-armed communist state.

"You have a 28-year-old leader who is trying to prove himself to the military, and the military is eager to have a saber-rattling for their own self-interest," said Rep. Mike Rogers, the chairman of the House Intelligence Committee. "And the combination of that is proving to be very, very deadly."

North Korea launched a satellite into orbit atop a long-range rocket in December, conducted its third nuclear weapons test in February and announced earlier this month that it was abandoning the 1953 armistice that ended the Korean War.

On Saturday, it announced that it would not negotiate with the United States over its nuclear program, challenging arguments that its weapons program was a bargaining chip that might be traded away for economic benefits.

READ: North Korea: Nuclear program not a bargaining chip

Rogers, R-Michigan, told CNN's State of the Union that North Korea "certainly" has the missile capability to strike the United States. Analysts say North Korea is years away from being able to accurately deliver a nuclear weapon atop a long-range missile. But Rogers said the fact that the North is willing to openly threaten the United States with a nuclear attack "is problem enough."

Nuclear fears in South Korea
U.S. to boost missile defense
Kim Jong Un: Break enemies' waists
North Korea raising decibel on threats

"This is very, very concerning, as we just don't know the stability of their leader -- again, 28 years old," Rogers said. "We're just not confident that we know he wouldn't take those steps."

Pyongyang disregarded numerous warnings to conduct February's test and threatened afterward that it was prepared to launch a pre-emptive nuclear strike to defend itself. The U.N. Security Council stiffened sanctions on the North after the test, with its leading ally, China, making the vote unanimous.

The North has also renewed its threats toward South Korea, warning of "strong physical countermeasures" after the sanctions vote.

READ: U.S. to beef up missile defenses

Kim is the grandson of Kim Il Sung, the founder of the North Korean state. He rose to power in December 2011, after the death of his father, Kim Jong Il. Victor Cha, a longtime North Korea analyst at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington, said the North's recent actions have fueled debate about whether Kim "really is fully in charge, or whether the military is in charge."

"The three top military generals that were with him when his father died are all gone now, and we don't know what happened to them," Cha said on CNN's Fareed Zakaria GPS.

"That could be a sign of him taking control, but it could also be a sign of some real churn inside the system where some people don't like the fact that a 28-year-old is now running the country."

And Donald Gregg, a former adviser to then-Vice President George H.W. Bush and former U.S. ambassador to South Korea, said North Korean contacts he has met recently told him "that they have given up on their diplomats, and the military is now in control."

"What they want is to talk about moving from the now-disbanded armistice agreement to the creation of a peace treaty," Gregg told GPS. "That's what they want to talk about, and anyone who is willing to talk about that, they will listen to. Anyone who wants to talk about what they call the old way, which was give up your nuclear weapons and then we'll talk, is going to get nowhere."

Gregg recommended engaging the North Koreans in new talks. But Cha, a former National Security Council official in the second George W. Bush administration, said that can't be done so soon after their nuclear and missile tests, and he predicted "a very difficult period for the next couple of months or so."

"They don't want to give up their nuclear weapons. They want to be able to have their cake and eat it, too," he said. "U.S. policy for the past quarter century or so has been, 'These things are all on the table if you're willing to give up your nuclear weapons.' This is the problem. This is the dilemma right now."

ADVERTISEMENT
Part of complete coverage on
November 19, 2014 -- Updated 0034 GMT (0834 HKT)
Kim Jong Il's former bodyguard tells of beatings and starvation while imprisoned in the country's most notorious prison camp.
November 18, 2014 -- Updated 0559 GMT (1359 HKT)
The chief of the Commission of Inquiry into North Korea's human rights says the world can no longer plead ignorance to the regime's offenses.
November 10, 2014 -- Updated 1834 GMT (0234 HKT)
Putting the United States at the same table as lawless thugs isn't just morally repugnant -- it's ineffective, writes Christian Whiton.
November 9, 2014 -- Updated 1711 GMT (0111 HKT)
Why did North Korean leader Kim Jong Un agree to released American prisoners Kenneth Bae and Matthew Todd Miller?
October 14, 2014 -- Updated 0025 GMT (0825 HKT)
North Korea has released photos that claim to show leader Kim Jong Un, whose absence for over a month has raised speculation.
October 11, 2014 -- Updated 0543 GMT (1343 HKT)
Despite tense relations, China benefits from Kim Jong Un's rule in North Korea. David McKenzie explains.
September 15, 2014 -- Updated 0851 GMT (1651 HKT)
North Korea has "the world's most advantageous human rights system," the country declares.
September 2, 2014 -- Updated 0135 GMT (0935 HKT)
Three Americans detained in North Korea spoke out about their conditions Monday in an exclusive interview with CNN.
May 28, 2013 -- Updated 1041 GMT (1841 HKT)
Beijing-based tour company posts exclusive photos and video from inspection visit.
September 1, 2014 -- Updated 0852 GMT (1652 HKT)
The crowd cheers as the stars make their way to the ring for first pro-wrestling bout North Korea has seen in almost 20 years.
December 2, 2013 -- Updated 1316 GMT (2116 HKT)
Visiting the DPRK is easy these days, so long as you don't forget to play by their rules.
September 2, 2014 -- Updated 1445 GMT (2245 HKT)
CNN's Will Ripley is given a rare look inside North Korea and tours Kim Jong Un's pet project, a waterpark.
May 22, 2014 -- Updated 0012 GMT (0812 HKT)
Photographer Eric Lafforgue visited North Korea and shares his inside look at the most isolated country in the world.
ADVERTISEMENT