North Korea abandons armistice: 4 key questions answered

Tensions on the Korean peninsula are ratcheting up. The US has started its annual war games with South Korean forces, and North Korea has used that fact to declare that it is invalidating the armistice agreement that ended the Korean War in 1953. What really has North Korea upset, though, is the tough, new sanctions passed by the United Nations in response to the North's nuclear test last month.

Here are the top four questions analysts are wrestling with on the heels of these developments.

Q. Do the threats and the nuclear tests make North Korean leader Kim Jong-un more dangerous than his father, Kim Jong-il?

Jason Mojica/VICE Media/AP
North Korean leader Kim Jong-un (l.) and former NBA star Dennis Rodman watch North Korean and US players in an exhibition basketball game at an arena in Pyongyang, North Korea, on Feb. 28.

A. The short answer to the question appears to be a rather definitive "yes," according to analysts.    

Kim Jong-un has launched two long-range rockets, engaged in nuclear testing, and renounced the war truce with a bellicosity that “far exceeds” the early days of his father, who took over in 1994, says Cronin. “Kim Jong-un has been so much more reckless than his father or grandfather ever was.”    

Part of the concern is the unpredictability of Kim Jong-un's behavior. “We don’t know how he views the world, we don’t know how he views the credibility of his own nuclear arsenal, we don’t know whether he views the US and South Korea as paper tigers,” says Cha.     

One theory is that all of the bluster is for domestic consumption and that Kim is merely trying to prove his credentials to a society in which there are mythical, rather than political leaders, Cha adds.     

“Another theory is that Jong-un doesn’t really have control over the military, which is acting tougher in a period of time where they see themselves as vulnerable because they have a 28-year-old running the country.”    

Kim’s behavior is less a question of rationality versus irrationality than unpredictability, Cha argues. “All of his actions thus far show unpredictability. Look at his meeting with Dennis Rodman – no expert would have predicted that.”

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