Almost all of the conventional wisdom from American intelligence agencies about North Korean leader Kim Jong-un has been wrong, Peter Sanger of The New York Times reports.

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un guides the multiple-rocket launching drill of women’s sub-units under KPA Unit 851, in this undated photo released by North Korea’s Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) April 24, 2014.


When Kim became supreme leader two years ago, U.S. intel thought his China-allied uncle would guide his transition to power. In December, Kim had his uncle and some of his allies executed.

The U.S. thought Kim would focus on an economic overhaul of the meager economy instead of further development of military programs. Instead, Kim has chosen to continue testing ballistic missiles, working toward an intercontinental missile that could threaten the U.S., in addition to promoting the North’s nuclear program, special operations forces, and long-range artillery.

As former State Department North Korea specialist Evans J. R. Revere told The Times: “We have failed. For two decades our policy has been to keep the North Koreans from developing nuclear weapons. It’s now clear there is no way they will give them up, no matter what sanctions we impose, no matter what we offer. So now what?”

Basically, the Hermit Kingdom has defied American expectations, and now the U.S. doesn’t know what to do about it.

Further, American spies are in the dark. The Washington Post, citing the leaked “black budget” of the U.S. intelligence community, reported last year that “there are five ‘critical’ gaps in U.S. intelligence about Pyongyang’s nuclear and missile programs, and analysts know virtually nothing about the intentions of North Korean leader Kim Jong-un.”