WASHINGTON - US spy agencies believe the recent bellicose rhetoric from North Korea is mainly an effort by leader Kim Jong-un to demonstrate he is firmly in command, National Intelligence Director James Clapper said on Thursday.
US intelligence also believes China, North Korea's neighbor and traditional protector, is becoming increasingly frustrated with Kim's behavior, Clapper said.
North Korea's new leader, who is estimated to be around 30, is pursuing Pyongyang's long-standing strategy of using threats to push the international community to negotiate and provide aid, Clapper told a hearing of the House Intelligence Committee.
"I don't think he really has much of an end game other than to somehow elicit recognition from the world, specifically the United States ... of North Korea's arrival on the scene as a nuclear power," Clapper said.
"Much of the rhetoric - in fact all of the belligerent rhetoric of late - I think is designed for both an internal and an external audience. But I think first and foremost it's to show that he is firmly in control in North Korea," Clapper said.