The Daily Item, Sunbury, PA


April 11, 2013

Kim bids to bolster hold on power, U.S. intelligence chief says

WASHINGTON — Kim Jong Un's "primary objective is to consolidate and affirm his power" as North Korea's dictator since succeeding his late father, James Clapper, the director of national intelligence, said Thursday.

"Much of the rhetoric of late is designed for both internal and external audiences," Clapper told the House intelligence committee. Kim's goal "first and foremost is to show he's firmly in control in North Korea," Clapper said.

North Korea has repeatedly said the region is on the brink of war since its February nuclear test prompted tighter United Nations sanctions and the United States and South Korea began annual joint drills last month. Kim's regime has threatened to wage nuclear war against the U.S. and South Korea.

Despite the threats, North Korea currently lacks the ability to hit the U.S. with a ballistic missile, said Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel.

"Right now, I don't think we believe they have that capacity," Hagel told the House Armed Services Committee.

Clapper, presenting the U.S. intelligence community's annual global threat assessment, told House lawmakers that the untested Kim seems "more impetuous and not as inhibited as his father." Kim's father, Kim Jong Il, died in December 2011.

Unlike his father's extended "grooming period" of more than a decade, Kim was being prepared for only two to three years so "we don't have a big track record on the new leader, not much history," Clapper said.

Clapper said Kim is "underestimating the Chinese frustration and discomfiture with his behavior." China, North Korea's neighbor and chief economic supporter, joined in the latest round of UN economic sanctions against the regime.

To the extent "that anyone has remaining leverage — because we have used up most of our sanctions options — it's clearly from the Chinese," Clapper said.

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