The North Korean regime is pursuing a "coercive strategy" to ensure in its own survival, said Gen. Curtis Scaparrotti, commander of the U.S. Forces Korea.
Scaparrotti was speaking at a hearing of the U.S. Senate Armed Services Committee on Tuesday.
The new USFK chief expressed concern that North Korean leader Kim Jon-un is trying to pressure South Korea and the U.S. with threats that he claimed are highly calculated but dangerous.
The regime's drive to develop nuclear weapons and missiles and boost its military power near the demilitarized zone could lead to severe misjudgments, Scaparrotti added.
He said Kim is "clearly" in charge of his regime and the execution of his uncle Jang Song-taek is not a signal that the regime is unstable.
"From what I've seen, he also is an independent actor and will tend to go his own way, which [I] believe has frustrated China as well," he added.
But increasing access to outside information could destabilize the regime, Scaparrotti said, and prompt Kim to escalate efforts to control that flow.