In an exclusive interview with Express.co.uk, CNN military analyst Cedric Leighton revealed that Kim Jong-un’s tight stranglehold on his people is one of the reasons the population has not risen up and forced Pyongyang to put an end to its provocative efforts.
He said: “I think that this is certainly a factor you know when you look at the differences between Iran and North Korea in terms of the government’s ability to control their respective populations it is clearly greater in North Korea.
“You know as oppressive as aspects of the Iranian regime may be, the regime in North Korea is far more repressive than anything that has graced either Tehran or any of the other cities in Iran.
“So I would say that Kim Jong-un has such as pervasive police state at his command, it makes it easier for him to conduct policies that are perceived internally as being very wise policies because what they serve to is essential maintain the North Korea siege mentality.
“Previous reporting makes it absolutely clear that these people believe what they have been told, and what they have been told is that the United States is a hostile power that is bent on destroying the North Korean regime.
“The United States, of course, would beg to differ with that characterisation but the fact of the matter is that the North Korean’s see an external threat and there is nothing that will galvanise an external population more than an external threat against all elements of a particular society, so the United States serves that function.
The military analyst stated that the brainwashing of North Korea’s people could be halted by the use of targeted influence operations to introduce South Korean and US culture to the hermit kingdom.
Mr Leighton also pointed to the increasing number of defectors as a case in point that the social compact between Kim Jong-un’s provocative regime and his people is weakening.
He added: “One of the only ways that the United States and South Korea can really change that social dynamic is through the use of targeted influence operations and by that I mean bringing in South Korean culture, American culture.
“It’s very difficult in such an isolated country as North Korea, but finding ways to open up the society one person at a time to other cultural influences.
“Some of that is already happening when you see and hear the defectors that have come out from North Korea but they are very few in number although they are increasing over the years.
“On the other side of the ledger there are a lot of social and economic pressures on the population and in some cases, especially the further you get away from Pyongyang, there are clear indications that the social compact between the population and the government may not be as strong as the government of North Korea would like us to believe.”
However, the military analyst disclosed that any deployment of targeted influence operations would be a long term strategy that may not be applicable at a time when tensions between the US and North Korea are rising exponentially.
He claimed: “If we take a more long term approach to the North Korean problem and use what in essence are targeted influence operations, that could have a significant impact if used down the road.
“But unfortunately we don’t always have the patience to deal with things down the road, we want results now and that’s kind of the mentality that we are dealing with at the moment.”
Although it has since been decertified by Donald Trump in October, the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), signed in 2015, prevents Iran from developing nuclear weapons in return for sanctions relief.
Sanctions on Iran strained the country’s ability to function properly, this caused protests that pushed the government to sign the JCPOA in the hope domestic pressures would be lifted.