Identifying leader’s intent: an analysis of Kim Jong-Un

Heather Kearney, Michelle Black

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


One of the most challenging tasks for a deterrence planner is assessing a leader's intent, which requires having an in-depth level of subject-matter expertise. This article investigates this challenge and offers answers to the following question “how can we identify a leader’s intent” to aid deterrence planners, operators, and policymakers? To examine this question, we used a multi-method approach by performing several qualitative analyses on Kim Jong-Un’s New Year’s Eve speeches (2013–2018). We focused on techniques that assessed the underlying facets of intent (e.g. cognitive beliefs and goals). These speeches served as a viable secondary source that identified objective markers to which we applied a coding scheme to extract the adversary’s “intent” to perform a particular action. This article argues that identifying intent can help policy-makers and planners understand if an adversary has plans to perform specific operations.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)398-421
Number of pages24
JournalDefense and Security Analysis
Issue number4
StatePublished - 2020


  • Defence
  • Deterrence
  • Kim Jong-Un
  • North Korea
  • leadership intent
  • multi-method

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Geography, Planning and Development
  • Political Science and International Relations


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