North Korean regime ‘on its last legs,’ but still could threaten US, says former Bush adviser

The world’s most oppressive regime is “on its last legs,” according to a former director of Asian Affairs at the National Security Council.

“I believe that the 45th president of the United States will have to deal with a major crisis of governance in North Korea before the end of his term,” Victor Cha, who served at the National Security Agency under President George W. Bush from 2004 to 2007, told The Daily Caller in an interview about his new book, “The Impossible State: North Korea, Past and Future.”

“I think the regime is on its last legs. If you had asked any expert on the situation what was the most important variable that determined the stability of the regime, nine of out ten would have told you ‘sudden death of Kim Jong Il.’ Now that this has happened, many have walked away from this view because they see stability in the country thus far. My answer is that it has been barely over 100 days since the death of Kim Jong Il. Transitional regimes throughout history have lasted longer than this and have then failed, so we are very early in the game.”

Cha, who currently serves as a senior adviser at the Center for Strategic and International Studies and a professor at Georgetown University, says that though the North Korean regime’s days may be numbered, it still poses a potentially “existential” threat to the United States.

“If we define the most grave threat to U.S. security today as the use of a WMD device by a state or non-state actor against the homeland or close ally of the U.S., then I would say the threat from North Korea today is quite serious,” he said, before detailing the regime’s nuclear proliferation efforts.

“Between April 12 to April 16, they have announced that they will conduct a long-range missile test (which they described as a satellite launch, but which uses the same technology as a ballistic missile). If this test is successful (and the last one in 2009 was moderately successful), then they will have demonstrated a capability to reach Alaska, Hawaii and possibly the western United States. This would constitute an existential threat to the homeland, and a capability that Pyongyang might then seek to sell to other actors. It does not get anymore dangerous than this.”

As for North Korea’s new leader, Kim Jong-un, Cha says, “We know less about Kim Jong-un than we did about Osama bin Laden or Saddam Hussein.”

“Up until September 2010, we did not have an adult picture of him, even inside of the U.S. government,” he said. “Think about that — the newest renegade nuclear state with tremendous proliferation potential harmful to U.S. interests — and we did not even have a picture of him, let alone know anything about him.”