A top CIA official called North Korean dictator Kim Jong-un a “very rational actor” who doesn’t want a war with the United States, despite a string of provocations that has sent tensions soaring across East Asia.
“The last person who wants conflict on the [Korean peninsula] is Kim Jong-un,” Yong Suk Lee, the deputy assistant director of the CIA’s newly created Korea Mission Center, told a Washington audience Wednesday.
In rare public remarks that appeared to contrast President Trump’s assertion that Mr. Kim is a “madman,” Mr. Lee said the 35-year-old dictator actually “wants what all authoritarian rulers want … to rule for a very long time and die peacefully in his own bed.”
“We have a tendency in this country and everywhere else to kind of underestimate the conservatism that runs in these authoritarian regimes, and it’s probably the greatest circuit-breaker in any kind of conflict,” he said, adding that, all “bluster and rhetoric aside,” Mr. Kim has “no interest in going toe to toe” with the U.S. military and its allies.
Mr. Trump and Mr. Kim has traded increasingly angry insults as tougher U.S.-backed sanctions and military moves have failed to stop Pyongyang from conducting test of nuclear weapons and the ballistic missiles that could deliver them to the U.S. mainland. Mr. Trump has repeatedly derided the young North Korean leader as “Rocket Man” who is risking the annihilation of his own nation with his policies.