Against a backdrop of bellicose tweets from President Donald Trump, North Korean leader Kim Jong-un may be as confused as everyone else about US military intentions toward North Korea.
38 North says this is likely forcing the supreme leader to rely increasingly on the North’s “intelligence community” and open sources such as US TV commentary to glean clues on whether a devastating US military strike is in the works. The respected Johns Hopkins University website dedicated to analysis of North Korea says such “open source” intelligence may include monitoring of what’s being said on “Morning Joe” — an early morning talk show on US cable network MSNBC hosted by Joe Scarborough, Mika Brzezinski, and Willie Geist.
38 North analyst Charles Lee notes that North Korea is no different than other nations when it comes to deciphering what “the other guy” is doing — a task made harder by Trump’s communicative style. No dummies, northern spooks may be helping Kim to dismiss the credibility of Trump’s stream of threats against North Korea, particularly by tapping alternate and corroborative views by US officials, the media and other sources.
Kim Jong-un and his military advisors are likely asking the same questions to the North Korean IC (intelligence community) —the Reconnaissance General Bureau (RGB). As one might expect, the architecture of the North Korean IC is vastly different from that of the United States and has inherent limitations that favor a reliance on open-source intelligence (OSINT), such as news media, social media and publicly-available information. In fact, one US news correspondent recently reported that North Korean officials tune in to MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” to glean insights into US policy discussions. If this is true, do statements from President Trump that consistently advertise lethal military options against North Korea carry weight? The answer appears to be no, at least until other administration officials provide amplifying comments, whether consistent or contradictory, on US North Korea policy.
The upshot? “We should not be surprised if the North’s intelligence community is advising their leader that they should heed the messages of the Trump administration as a whole, not simply those of President Trump,” Lee concluded.