N. Korea’s next nuclear test may coincide with Trump’s inauguration: expert

North Korea may conduct its sixth nuclear test early next year timed for Donald Trump's inauguration as the U.S. president, security experts said Wednesday.

"North Korea may seek negotiations with the U.S. when it completes nuclear tests and reaches the stage of deploying a long-range nuclear-tipped missile," Lee Su-seok, director of the Center for Unification Strategy at the state-run Institute for National Security Strategy, said in a military forum held in Seoul.

"In early 2017, it is highly likely that Pyongyang will detonate another nuclear device and launch a long-range ballistic missile to reiterate its status as a nuclear power."

Citing a recent report carried by the Choson Shinbo, a Korean-language newspaper published in Japan, he said the North expressed hopes for dialogue and negotiations with the next U.S. government by favorably comparing President-elect Donald Trump to President Barack Obama.

He speculated that the incoming Trump administration won't likely handle North Korean matters in a hasty and hurried manner, as it takes time for the real estate tycoon to review pending issues and appoint the right advisors.

"Any dialogue with North Korea, if any, will be possible some time after Trump takes office in January. Inter-Korean relations will remain frosty and strained until the first half of 2017 due to the North's continued military provocations," he said.

The communist regime has conducted its fourth and fifth nuclear tests in January and September, and launched some 20 missiles this year alone, to achieve its stated goal of developing a nuclear-tipped long-range missile that could hit parts of the U.S. mainland.

As South Korea is engulfed by an influence-peddling scandal involving President Park Geun-hye's confidante, the North is expected to focus on psychological warfare aimed at causing internal conflicts in the South for the time being, the director said.

In the scandal, Park's close friend Choi Soon-sil, with no government post or security clearance, is suspected of having abused her decades-long ties to the president to meddle in state affairs and even influence certain government appointments.

"The Kim Jong-un regime will continue its verbal and military threats in efforts to urge the nearly paralyzed Seoul government to change the current strict policies toward Pyongyang," he said.

His view is echoed by Cheong Seong-chang, director of the Unification Strategy Studies Program at the Sejong Institute, and other security experts.

"Chances are high that North Korea will conduct the sixth nuclear test or launch a missile before the Trump government's inauguration on Jan. 20. Follow-up provocations are likely before the 75th birthday of the late Kim Jong-il on Feb. 16 or the 150th birthday of the late Kim Il-sung on Apr. 15," Cheong said.

Kim Jong-un took the helm of North Korea in late 2011 from his late father Jong-il. Kim Il-sung, the founder of the communist state, is the grandfather of the incumbent leader.

Source: Yonhap News Agency

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