(OPINION) In his most intensive drive for power over the Korean peninsula since his father’s death more than 12 years ago, North Korea’s Kim Jong Un is mounting a blitzkrieg of weapons tests and rhetoric.

His goal: to convince both his own people and his enemies that he’ll risk a second Korean War to reunite North and South Korea under one-man rule.

Buoyed by his relationship with Russian President Vladimir Putin, Kim is shipping artillery shells and missiles for Russian forces bogged down in Ukraine while spreading fears of a grand plan to take over South Korea.


The dream is to fulfill the vision of his grandfather, regime founder Kim Il Sung, who tried and failed to conquer the South in the first Korean War.

Kim’s big talk, his decision to give up all pretense of dealing with South Korea, above all his dedication to a nuclear program capable of inflicting mass death from Northeast Asia to the U.S., has experts forecasting more and bigger weapons tests—on top of unremitting threats.

“It looks like Kim Jong Un is talking about absorption by conquest,” said Nicholas Eberstadt, long-time researcher at the American Enterprise Institute. “What’s changed since last year? We know that North Korea is preparing for nuclear war on the Korean peninsula.”

Eberstadt, talking to The Daily Beast, qualified that bold assertion by noting that South Korea, with a strong economy and a well-equipped military establishment, supported by its American ally, is far more powerful than the impoverished North Korea, whose 1.2 million troops are underfed, ill-equipped, and often used as slave labor on farms and construction projects.

“Do they really think they are ready to gamble on something like this?” asked Eberstadt. “I find it fascinating that he would gamble on six or seven decades of talk about unification by changing the party line of his grandfather,” Kim Il Sung, and his father, Kim Jong Il, “who were both talking about unification.”

Renouncing reunification of North and South Korea by negotiations and proclaiming South Korea “our principal enemy,” he ordered the destruction of the famous reunification arch that spanned the main entrance into Pyongyang from the south as a symbol of his shifting policy.

The arch, which was completed in 2001, showed two women in traditional Korean dress leaning toward each other high above the highway, their outstretched hands holding an image of a map of all Korea.

It was a familiar sight to visitors to the capital. “It’s a U.S. election year and the North Korean leaders always like to make themselves heard on U.S. election years.”