The Current

Why Trump needs to develop a North Korea policy now: analyst

Kim Jong-un's leadership of North Korea is raising questions after the murder of his brother this week, the execution of his uncle in 2013, and the recent testing of a nuclear- capable missile.
North Korea's recent missile test aimed at Japan and the alleged targeted killing of his half-brother raise questions about how to deal with Kim Jong-un. (Jung Yeon-Je/AFP/Getty Images)

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On Feb. 13, North Korean leader Kim Jong-un's half-brother Kim Jong-nam was reportedly assassinated at a Malaysian airport.

Jong-nam was the oldest son of the country's former leader Kim Jong-il, and was once seen as the natural heir to the leadership.

But he'd become estranged from the family, having lived abroad for many years before his death.

The death of Kim Jong-nam

To journalist and author Barbara Demick, the details involved in Jong-nam's death points an "extremely likely" connection that North Korea and Kim Jong-un were behind it. 
Kim Jong-nam, the eldest son of North Korean leader Kim Jong-il, said several times over the years that he had no interest in leading North Korea.

"There is no doubt that they had the motivation and this is completely within their modus operandi," Demick tells The Current's guest host Laura Lynch. 

"There's actually been an arrest in Malaysia of a woman who seems to be a Vietnamese national. But I would assume that she was hired by somebody connected to the North Korean government." 

​"I don't think they even need plausible deniability. You know they just do it."

North Korea test-fires nuclear-capable missile 

If it turns out that Kim Jong-nam's death in Malaysia was an assassination by the North Korean regime, it would only be the latest in a series of provocations by his half-brother, Kim Jong-un.

Recently, North Korea test-fired a nuclear-capable missile off its eastern coast in violation of UN Security Council resolutions.

James Acton, a senior fellow at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace tells Lynch he's deeply concerned North Korea has openly disregarded international norms and laws in this way and it's a "significant mistake" to brush it off.

North Korea launches nuclear-capable missile

6 years ago
Duration 0:41
State-run television says rocket fell to sea after successful test

"Most if not all of North Korea's previous tests of land based missiles had been with liquid fuel. This was a solid fuel missile and that is a very significant technical enhancement for them," says Acton.

"So the headline for this is not the range of the missile. It's the kind of fuel that it had."

Acton says it's important to recognize this since "developing solid fuelled missiles would be a significant military advantage for North Korea."

While Acton says he was surprised that U.S. President Trump did not condemn the missile test, he hopes the new administration gets a North Korea policy and a North Korea strategy "sorted out pretty quickly."

"This is not a problem that it can kick down the road a year or two years," explains Acton.

"I think North Korea is going to be challenging the new administration regularly. And I think the new administration needs a strategy sooner rather than later."

Listen to the full segment at the top of this web post.

This segment was produced by The Current's John Chipman and Sam Colbert.