Singapore (CNN): “Young, rash, impulsive”. That was the frank assessment of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un by South Korean Defense Minister Han Minkoo.
Speaking exclusively to CNN on the sidelines of a defense forum in Singapore, Han says it’s a combination that concerns him greatly.
“Kim Jong Un was just 28 when he came to power with very little time to prepare. Add to that, he is very young, he lacks experience.”
Kim certainly seems to be in a rush to perfect his nuclear and missile capabilities, the intensity of testing this year alone is unusual even for North Korea.
“If you look at his father, Kim Jong Il, during his 18 year reign, there were about 18 missile tests. During Kim Jong Un’s four year reign there (have been) 25 missile tests,” says Han.
Han is not convinced North Korea can miniaturize nuclear weapons or fit a nuclear warhead onto a missile, as claimed by Pyongyang, but acknowledges that practice makes perfect.
“If they continue to progress with the miniaturization technology, we think it may be possible to deliver it in other ways such as an artillery shell or in the form of a nuclear mine.”
At the recent Workers’ Party Congress, Kim Jong Un made it clear North Korea is a nuclear power and will remain one, a statement Washington and Seoul cannot accept.
“South Korea, the United States and other countries will never acknowledge a nuclear North Korea. Therefore, we have to reassure this action and keep pressuring to make denuclearization possible,” Han says.
Han and other South Korean officials believe the recent round of U.N. sanctions is the way to do that. They hope the sanctions can force Kim Jong Un’s hand and convince him to give up part of his state ideology, a cornerstone of his leadership that he believes his very survival depends on.
When asked if this denuclearization would be peaceful, Han answered simply, “we have to work to ensure it’s peaceful.”