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Looking for logic in North Korea’s threats

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Kim is under immense pressure, not just because he is a new ruler, but because a new generation of North Korean military and civilian leaders will rise to prominence in coming years, anxious to live in a more developed nation, said Peter Hayes, head of the Nautilus Institute for Security and Sustainability, an Asia-focused think tank. More exposed to the outside world than their predecessors, Hayes believes they will be far more likely to turn on their ruler if he doesn’t come through.

"If he doesn’t deliver an economy worth living in, he’s toast," said Hayes.

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Kim Jong Un has to try to cement his popular support, ensure the backing of this key elite, and negotiate his way through the complex waters of international diplomacy, a juggling trick that may explain why the threats, and the volume of those threats, are more bellicose than normal.

"Maybe he’s more risk-taking ... Maybe he’s trying to create his own brand," said Hayes. "But he’s playing many different games at many different levels at the same time."

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