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North Korea could test-launch ICBM in February, analyst says

The forecast comes at a time North Korea is demanding a peace treaty from the United States.

By Elizabeth Shim
North Korea could test-launch ICBM in February, analyst says
Kim Jong Un has claimed North Korea has completed the final stages for a test-launch of an intercontinental ballistic missile. That test could come in February, a South Korean analyst said. File Photo by Rodong Sinmun

Jan. 25 (UPI) -- North Korea may launch an intercontinental ballistic missile, ahead of the birth anniversary of former leader Kim Jong Il in February, according to a South Korean analyst.

Chung Sung-jang, director of unification strategy studies at the Sejong Institute, said Wednesday Kim has claimed that he has completed the preparation stages for a test launch of an ICBM, local news service News 1 reported.

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"The statement was reaffirmed on Jan. 8, when a North Korea foreign ministry spokesman said the launch will take place 'at an arbitrary time and place,' at the decision of the top leadership," Chung said.

Given the current status of North Korea missile development, it is "highly possible" Kim could order a test launch on or around Feb. 16, the birth anniversary of his father.

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Chung also said it is unclear how many nuclear weapons North Korea has, and the lack of information makes it unlikely a surgical strike or a decapitation operation could be placed into action in the event of a test-firing of an ICBM.

The main response would be for the United States and South Korea to accelerate the deployment of the U.S. missile defense system THAAD, which could cause further Chinese retaliation, thereby generating more friction between Seoul and Beijing, and between Washington and Beijing.

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The analysis comes at a time when North Korea is demanding the withdrawal of the United States' "hostile policy" against the country and the signing of a peace treaty that also recognizes the country as a nuclear weapons state.

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On Wednesday, Pyongyang's Workers' Party newspaper Rodong Sinmun published an editorial lambasting the administration of former U.S. President Barack Obama.

"The United States must learn from the bankruptcy of Obama's North Korea policy," North Korea stated, adding, "U.S. pressure through sanctions is only pushing [North Korea] to becoming a nuclear power, a space power, an economic power and a strong civilization."

Pyongyang claimed Obama's policy of "strategic patience" has failed and the state managed to conduct four nuclear tests during his term in office.

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But Thae Yong-ho, a senior North Korea diplomat who recently defected to Seoul, has said international pressure on Pyongyang must continue against the Kim regime.

Increased information flows could lead to its collapse, Thae has said.

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