DECLASSIFIED by DNI Haines on 15 June 2023
Office of the Director of National Intelligence June 30, 2023 Korea
During the period of this estimate, North Korean leader Kim Jong Un most likely will employ a variety of coercive methods and threats of aggression to try to make progress toward achieving his national security priorities. He may be willing to take greater conventional military risks, believing that nuclear weapons will deter an unacceptably strong US or South Korean response. The IC continues to assess that North Korea is unlikely to use nuclear weapons unless Kim believes his regime is in peril, and that he cannot achieve his strategic goals using conventional or chemical means. We judge it to be much less likely that Kim will choose an offensive pathway in which he seeks to use force, including the possible use of nuclear weapons, to split the US-South Korea alliance and establish clear political and military dominance on the Peninsula. We also judge it to be very unlikely that Kim will seek to use his nuclear arsenal solely as a deterrent and will refrain from coercive threats or aggressive behavior.