North Korea Likely To Wrap Up Winter Training With With More Missile, Nuclear Tests
North Korea is expected to end its winter training with further provocations, the South Korean military reports.
North Korea has aggressively tested new weapons technology and launched multiple missiles in recent weeks, and there is a strong possibility that the Korean People’s Army still has more provocative behavior in store. “Chances are high that North Korea may soon take additional provocative steps,” a senior defense ministry official told the Yonhap News Agency. “A key concern is whether it will test-fire an intercontinental ballistic missile or conduct a nuclear test.”
The soldiers of the Korean People’s Army are reportedly mobilized to aid agricultural workers after they complete their winter training in early April, but there is a chance they will first demonstrate their capabilities before they head off to the fields.
“North Korean troops will [likely] stage a large-scale exercise to wrap up the winter training at an on-site inspection of leader Kim Jong-un,” Kim Dong-yup, a professor at the Institute for Far East Studies at Kyungnam University, told reporters. “It’s expected to fire various types of missiles this time.”
Military officials are also concerned that the North may decide test its weaponry to mark the 105th anniversary of DPRK founder Kim Il-sung’s birthday April 15, or alternatively, the 85th anniversary of the establishment of the Korean People’s Army April 25.
South Korea is closely monitoring the situation.
The North has repeatedly indicated that it may be close to testing an ICBM. Kim Jong-un commented on the progress of his country’s missile program in his New Year’s speech. “We have reached the final stage of preparations to test-launch an intercontinental ballistic missile,” Kim said, adding that, “Research and development of cutting edge arms equipment is actively progressing.”
“The ICBM will be launched anytime and anywhere,” the Korean Central News Agency said a week later, citing the foreign ministry. “Soon our ICBM will send the shiver down [America’s] spine,” the paper of the ruling party Rodong Sinmun wrote.
Commercial satellite imagery of the Punggye-ri test site shows extensive tunneling for a future nuclear weapons test, 38 North, a research site run by the U.S.-Korea Institute at Johns Hopkins University’s School of Advanced International Studies, reported recently. U.S. officials reportedly suspect that the North will conduct another nuclear test soon. “The test could come as early as the end of the month,” one official told Fox News.
Nonetheless, it is difficult to predict weapons testing with any significant accuracy. Another provocation would be consistent with North Korea’s current trajectory.
In recent weeks, the North tested a solid-fueled, road-mobile, mid-range ballistic missile, fired four extended-range scuds into the Sea of Japan, and tested a high-thrust rocket engine suspected to be a part of North Korea’s efforts to develop an ICBM. North Korea also tested a missile Wednesday, but the weapon exploded shortly after launch.
The Trump administration is in the process of formulating a solid North Korea policy to address the growing threat posed by its tireless efforts to develop bigger and better weaponry.
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