This episode of Intelligence Matters features Michael Morell, a former senior CIA analyst, and Sue Mi Terry (Director of the Hyundai Motor Korea Foundation Center for Korea History and Public Policy at Wilson Center) discussing North Korea’s record-breaking missile test in 2022, and the overall Biden administration’s approach. Terry and Morell discuss Russia’s and China’s stances towards Pyongyang’s aggressive behavior and the potential for changes in the Kim regime. Terry discusses the growing concern about North Korean leader Kim Jong Un’s well-being and identifies some fissures in North Korean society.


  • Ineffectiveness and inability to enforce sanctions: “I believe 2017 was a very different time. China surprised everyone by actually taking action after years of being slow. Now, I don’t believe China will do that. Because sanctions won’t be properly implemented, they won’t be as effective.”

  • North Korea’s nuclear weaponization is causing a growing complacency: “Even though the media didn’t pay attention to this test of intermediate-range ballistic missiles, it’s clear that they don’t care. The Americans don’t seem to care. The South Koreans aren’t concerned. It is now a way of life. The more they do this, they make it easier for the international community to accept North Korea. This is similar to what happened with Pakistan. That’s my view, and they test. We meet with North Koreans and make some kind of freeze agreement. Then we lift most of the sanctions and accept North Korea’s nuclear weapons power. They promise to not make any more.

  • Emergence internal fissures “[There’s a lot happening internally in North Korea; a lot on ground; private markets, information seeingping into North Korea that’s really chipping away regime myths and bringing about change. You just never know what you might find if you don’t keep your feet on the ground and help that effort. Kim Jong Un isn’t healthy. Kim is a wild card if anything were to happen. Because he doesn’t have a replacement. His children are in elementary school. His sister is with him, but it’s not clear what will happen. There are many wildcards in North Korea.