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N. Korea could test nuke early next week

All News 10:38 April 30, 2016

SEOUL, April 30 (Yonhap) -- North Korea may conduct its fifth nuclear test early next week, as it gears up for a rare party congress aimed at consolidating leader Kim Jong-un's grip on power, experts said Saturday.

The ruling Workers' Party will hold its first congress in 36 years next Friday. Analysts have pointed to the possibility of a strategic provocation before then, as Pyongyang tries to brandish its nuclear capabilities and make up for its failed missile launches earlier this month.

North Korea's attempt to launch an intermediate-range ballistic missile on April 15 ended in failure, South Korea said. The reclusive nation made two more attempts on Thursday, but to no avail.

The South's military has recently detected a sharp increase in vehicle and human movement at the North's Punggye-ri nuclear test site, a potential sign of an imminent nuclear explosion.

In mid-March, leader Kim said he will conduct a nuclear warhead explosion and test-fire ballistic rockets able to carry nuclear warheads in the near future, and some experts believe he may have meant some time before this upcoming party congress.

North Korea has carried out four nuclear tests so far, the first one happening in 2006. All four were carried out between Monday and Wednesday, a pattern that may continue with the next one, experts say.

But other North Korea analysts have played down the possibility of a nuclear test so soon, as there has always been a break of about three years in between tests.

"It's possible the North's successive failures in missile launches are related to an impending test of a nuclear warhead explosion," Kim Don-yeop, professor at Kyungnam University, said. "Military provocations ahead of the congress will likely culminate in another test of an intermediate-range ballistic missile, not nuclear weapons."


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