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North Korea expected to test new weapons soon, analysts say

Kim Jong Un is likely to stay away from tests of intercontinental ballistic missiles that could lead to more sanctions and opt instead to test new cruise missiles, South Korean analysts say. File Photo by KCNA/UPI
Kim Jong Un is likely to stay away from tests of intercontinental ballistic missiles that could lead to more sanctions and opt instead to test new cruise missiles, South Korean analysts say. File Photo by KCNA/UPI | License Photo

May 18 (UPI) -- North Korea could engage in a military provocation during the upcoming U.S.-South Korea summit in Washington or during scheduled joint exercises on the peninsula, analysts in the South say.

Park Young-ja, a research fellow at state-owned Korea Institute for National Unification, said Tuesday at a meeting of the National Unification Advisory Council in Seoul that Pyongyang could raise tensions to draw attention to the U.S. policy of sanctions, Asia Business reported.

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"There is a growing need for North Korean authorities to put the blame on ongoing U.S. sanctions and the failure of South Korea's promises," Park said. "This would raise tensions with the outside world [but] alleviate domestic unrest."

Park said the possibility Kim Jong Un could conduct additional nuclear tests is "relatively low." North Korea is more likely to test new weapons, the analyst said.

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Lee Ho-ryung, a Korea Institute for Defense Analyses research fellow, said Tuesday that North Korea could escalate tensions with Seoul and Washington in August during bilateral exercises.

North Korea is likely to stay away from tests of intercontinental ballistic missiles that could lead to more sanctions, and opt instead to test new cruise missiles, including the modified KN-23 or KN-25 Iskander-class missiles, Lee said, according to the report. Lee Jung-chul, a political scientist at Seoul National University, said a missile test could occur around the time of the summit Friday.

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North Korea previously tested submarine-launched ballistic missiles. The most recent SLBM test took place in March 2020, according to North Korean state media.

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SLBM tests pose risks to U.S. allies. A submarine lurking by North Korea's eastern coast could place all of Japan and South Korea within range.

North Korea's first known launch of an SLBM on May 9, 2015, may have prompted U.S. and South Korean military intelligence to heighten surveillance of the waters off North Korea's South Hamgyong Province.

South Korean publication Weekly Dong-A reported Tuesday the United States and South Korea began surveillance of North Korean submarines in 2015. The forces have the capability to shoot down SLBMs if necessary, the report said.

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In 2015, Seoul's military confirmed a North Korean attempt on Nov. 28 of that year to launch the Pukuguksong-1 was unsuccessful.

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