North may test nuke on Trump’s inauguration

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North may test nuke on Trump’s inauguration

North Korea will likely fire a missile or conduct a sixth nuclear test in time with U.S. President-elect Donald J. Trump’s formal inauguration in January 2017, according to a report published Wednesday by a local think tank.

The Institute for National Security Strategy, a public research center under the National Intelligence Service, claims Pyongyang will likely use the provocations to drum up international tension for the first half of 2017, only to spend the rest of the year seeking appeasement through bilateral talks with the South and/or the United States.

The speculation was made in a paper titled “A Report on the Prospects of North Korea and Security Situations in 2017.”

Mentioned as possible dates for the threats were Jan. 8 (North Korean leader Kim Jong-un’s birthday), Jan. 20 (Trump’s inauguration), Feb. 16 (75th anniversary of Kim Jong-il’s birth) and April 15 (105th anniversary of Kim Il Sung’s birth).

Kim Jong-il is the former leader of North Korea and father of Kim Jong-un. He died on Dec. 17, 2011, of a suspected heart attack. Kim Il Sung is the founder of the communist country and father of Kim Jong-il.

North Korea has a long history celebrating any significant anniversaries with flaunting its military prowess.

The report comes at a time when Pyongyang has remained low-key in recent months, with the latest provocation on Oct. 15 when it test-fired an intermediate-range Musudan missile from the northwestern city of Kusong in North Pyongan Province. The missile exploded within seconds after its launch.

The placidity appears to be intentional, according to Radio Free Asia, which reported earlier this month that Choe Son-hui, director general of the U.S. Affairs Department of the North’s Foreign Ministry and a top-envoy to the six-party talks, said during a meeting with her American counterparts in Geneva last month Pyongyang “would not take action that might close the door before seeing what emerges.”

The statement was a signal that the North will refrain from provocations until the new U.S. administration shapes its stance with Pyongyang. The North Korean diplomat reportedly asked the American delegation whether the Trump administration may reduce the scale of joint military drills with the South in the future.

Exactly how the new administration will handle North Korean affairs remains murky, though Trump publicly addressed Kim Jong-un as a “maniac” and a “bad dude” before his election.

Joel Wit, senior fellow at the U.S.-Korea Institute at Johns Hopkins University and founder of the website 38 North, said in a recent interview with the Korea JoongAng Daily that “it’s unclear exactly what a new U.S. administration’s policy would be both toward South Korea and North Korea,” adding that it was “unclear what Trump has in mind.”

In its report, the Institute for National Security Strategy said that if Pyongyang fails to hold bilateral talks with Washington, it might steer its disappointment towards the South by testing more weapons.

BY LEE SUNG-EUN AND JEONG YONG-SOO [lee.sungeun@joongang.co.kr]

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