Experts say Kim Jong Un doesn't want nuclear war

"What we know of Kim Jong Un is that he wants to survive."

ByBy Meghan Keneally
August 15, 2017, 3:57 PM

— -- Despite the fiery rhetoric coming from both President Donald Trump and North Korean officials, as well as concerns over the country’s recent advances in missile technology, experts maintain that nuclear war is not what Kim Jong Un wants. Rather, experts say what Kim is searching for can be summed up in one word: survival.

“This is not a man who wants to go to war with the United States,” Jonathan Pollack, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution who focuses on Northeast Asian studies, told ABC News.

“[The North Koreans] were not going to strike first because they know the risks if they did launch some kind of missile attack," Pollack said, adding that those risks include Trump deciding to put North Korea "out of business."

While statements were being hurled back and forth by both Trump and Kim last week, Scott Snyder, a senior fellow for Korea studies at the Council on Foreign Relations, told ABC News that "what we know of Kim Jong Un is that he wants to survive."

Steve Ganyard, an ABC News contributor and a former deputy assistant secretary of state, agreed: "Kim Jong Un is a rational man, so the whole goal is regime survival."

“He's learned the lesson of Saddam [Hussein] and Muammar [Gaddafi]," Ganyard said. "He's never going to give up his nukes, so I think at some point we go back to Cold War-style deterrence and containment the way we did with the Soviet Union successfully," Ganyard added.

That would bring relations with the U.S. back to the status quo, but not change things much on the ground in North Korea.

"It will remain a standoff unless we can ratchet up the economic sanctions to the point that it begins to cripple the North Korean economy," Ganyard said.

Pollack went further, saying that in addition to simply surviving as the country's leader, Kim “wants to be validated.”

“He presides over one of the most misbegotten regimes in the world that has an economy one fortieth the size of South Korea's,” Pollack said of Kim. “He is trying to claim that he is now on a level playing field with the most powerful state in the world, so he does this through an over-commitment to military programs."

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