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N.K. nuclear or ICBM test highly unlikely in near future: U.S. expert

North Korea 12:03 January 03, 2020

By Yi Wonju

SEOUL, Jan. 3 (Yonhap) -- North Korea is unlikely to conduct a nuclear or intercontinental ballistic missile test in the near future, even though the communist nation threatened to show the world a "new strategic weapon," an American expert has said.

Joel Wit, a senior fellow at the Washington-based think tank Stimson Center, made the case during a press call, saying that Pyongyang is aware of the consequences of such a test and would instead likely field new weapons without testing them.

"It's possible they could have an ICBM test. It's possible they could have a nuclear test. But I would say it's highly unlikely you're going to see that in the short term," Wit said during the call, according to a transcript released on the 38 North website Wednesday.

"The North Koreans aren't stupid, and they know that there are implications to doing that, but they do have an alternative, and that is starting to deploy new strategic weapons, to send them into the field for everyone to see," he said. "That would have an enormous impact without the down sides of an ICBM or a nuclear test."

According to state media, North Korean leader Kim Jong-un said during a meeting of the ruling Workers' Party at the end of December that he will show a "new strategic weapon" in the near future, accusing the United States of stalling for time in their nuclear talks for its own political interests.

Wit suggested that the United States strengthen its alliance with South Korea and restart joint military exercises that were scaled back as part of an effort to keep the nuclear talks ongoing.

"We need to resolve our problems over burden sharing, and we need to move forward, because it's impossible to have an effective strategy to deal with North Korea without South Korea fully on board," Wit said, referring to the talks over how much of the burden Seoul should shoulder for the upkeep of American troops in the South.

Wit, however, added the U.S. must signal to North Koreans that they are open to dialogue.

"I think, at the same time, we also need to show the North Koreans and signal to them that the door is still open to talking. We're not shutting that door, but we have to do what we have to do."


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