North Korean war threats spotlight its untested dictator

North Korean war threats spotlight its untested dictator

If North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un’s threats to start a nuclear war are an attempt to get the world’s attention, he’s succeeded.

The question is why?

The answer would go a long way to determining whether war cries emanating from North Korea herald a devastating conflict or, as many analysts say, are just the latest round of provoke- and-retreat behavior driven by the leadership politics in Pyongyang, North Korea’s isolated capital.

Even bluster carries risks of misjudgments or accidents if Kim, no older than 30 and new to power after his father’s December 2011 death, isn’t skillful at managing the crisis he’s created with missile and nuclear tests, threats againstSouth Korea and videos depicting attacks on the U.S.

“What I fear most of all is that he does not have an ‘off ramp’ to be able to ratchet back the tensions,” David Maxwell, associate director of the Center for Security Studies atGeorgetown University in Washington, said in an e-mail.

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