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N. Korea could stage provocations in time for S. Korea-U.S. summit, joint drills: experts

North Korea 17:22 May 18, 2021

SEOUL, May 18 (Yonhap) -- North Korea could carry out provocations in time for this week's summit between President Moon Jae-in and U.S. President Joe Biden or the upcoming joint drills in August, experts said Tuesday.

Lee Ho-ryung, a researcher at the Korea Institute of Defense Analyses in Seoul made the remarks at a forum hosted by the National Unification Advisory Council, saying that the North could test a cruise missile or other new weapons this year.

"North Korea could gradually raise the level of provocations during two phases, from the first half of this year to the August summertime drills, or from the time of the exercises to the presidential elections next year," he said.

The North, however, is unlikely to carry out any major provocations, including a nuclear or intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) test, the expert said.

Another expert said the North could stage provocations in time for this week's summit.

"There is technical demand for testing an ICBM or a submarine launched ballistic missile (SLBM) within the North Korean military," said Lee Jeong-chol, professor of political science at Seoul National University. "This week's summit meeting could be the target."

Park Young-ja, a researcher at the state-run Korea Institute for National Unification, also said that the North could be tempted to heighten external tensions amid several domestic challenges, including economic woes from prolonged global sanctions and efforts to ward off the coronavirus.

President Moon is scheduled to visit Washington later this week for a one-on-one summit with Biden, during which the two sides are expected to have in-depth discussions on denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula.

Nuclear talks between the U.S. and North Korea have stalled since the no-deal summit between North Korean leader Kim Jong-un and then U.S. President Donald Trump in 2019.


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