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North Korea may soon stir up provocations, U.S. experts say

An upcoming joint military exercise may be the next opportunity for Pyongyang.

By Elizabeth Shim
North Korea may soon stir up provocations, U.S. experts say
North Korean leader Kim Jong Un was recently placed under unprecedented U.S. sanctions, prompting an angry response from Pyongyang that included threats to shut down a unique channel of communication with the United States. File Photo by Rodong Sinmun

WASHINGTON, July 12 (UPI) -- U.S. experts on North Korea are raising concerns Pyongyang may restart provocations around key events in August and November.

Victor Cha, the Korea Chair at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, told South Korean news agency Yonhap North Korea's recent threat to shut down its New York channel of communication should invite caution.

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The loss of the channel could be risky as "we head into the fall with U.S.-[South Korea] military exercises in August and U.S. presidential elections in November," Cha said.

The analyst also said the New York channel played a very important role during the 1994 negotiations that led to the signing of the Agreed Framework in Geneva.

The communication line continued to be used during the six-party talks on North Korea denuclearization and was used by the Obama administration to negotiate the release of U.S. detainees, according to Cha.

Ken Gause, an analyst at the Center for Naval Analyses, said the joint U.S.-South Korea military exercises could be the next opportunity for Pyongyang to engage in provocations.

"The upcoming August exercise will provide North Korea with a justification for acting out," Gause said. "The question is whether North Korea will stick with demonstrations and tests or will it try something more aggressive. If North Korea tries something aggressive, it most likely will be a covert – versus an overt – attack."

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The United States and South Korea have stated the seasonal drills are solely for defensive purposes.

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