Every path for North Korea leads to "catastrophe" if Kim Jong-un is toppled, according to a journalist who reported from the country undercover.
Opening up North Korean society is "a completely bleak problem" because citizens "have been deprived of any tools that they need, education, information, sharing tools", Suki Kim said.
Ms Kim authored the book Without You, There Is No Us after working as an English teacher at the Pyongyang University of Science and Technology, and smuggling notes out of the country.
"It’s not a system that they can moderate. The Great Leader can’t be moderated. You can’t be a little bit less god. The Great Leader system has to break. But it’s impossible to imagine," she told The Intercept.
She added: "[Military] intervention is not going to work because it’s a nuclear power. I guess it has to happen in pouring information into North Korea in whatever capacity.
"But then the population are abused victims of a cult ideology. Even if the Great Leader is gone, another form of dictatorship will take its place. Every path is a catastrophe. I’d love to offer up solutions but everything leads to a dead end."
The news comes as the crisis on the Korean peninsula threatens to worsen even further, with reports from South Korea on Tuesday that its neighbour was moving a rocket, apparently an intercontinental ballistic missile, towards its west coast.
The Kim regime had conducted its sixth nuclear test on Sunday, detonating what it claimed was a thermonuclear device measured as being several times more powerful than its previous effort.
Ms Kim warned: "North Korea will never give up its nuclear weapons. Never."
It echoed the claims of the North's highest-ranking defector, Thae Yong-ho. Mr Thae was the deputy ambassador in London and defected to the South last year.
He said the Kim regime was determined to complete its nuclear weapons development by the end of 2017, and that it would not relinquish them "even if the country is offered $1 trillion or $10 trillion in return".
After North Korea's most recent missile test, Asia expert John Nilsson-Wright told The Independent that gaining a credible long-range nuclear arsenal would provide Mr Kim leverage to focus on economic growth—potentially using it as a bargaining chip to weaken sanctions.
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