N. Korea may conduct nuke test in late 2011 or early 2012: analyst
News Date: 12th February 2011
North Korea could conduct its third nuclear test between late this year and early next year if the regime feels the need for a breakthrough for its power succession plan or for the standoff over its atomic programs, a state-run think tank analyst claimed Friday.
Yun Deok-min, a professor at the Institute of Foreign Affairs and National Security, told a security forum in Seoul that the communist nation could go ahead with a test to sharpen its plutonium bomb technology or it could test a bomb made of highly enriched uranium.
"Now that the North's enriched uranium production capabilities are proven, it is inevitable for us to fundamentally review our nuclear policy on North Korea as it is based on the existing negotiation and information systems," Yu told the forum.
North Korea carried out two nuclear test explosions, first in 2006 and the other in 2009, based on its plutonium bomb program. Concern about Pyongyang's nuclear capabilities has escalated further after the North revealed in November that it has a uranium enrichment facility.
Uranium, if highly enriched, can be weapons-grade. North Korea claims the facility is to produce fuel for a light water reactor under construction for power generation. But few believe the claim by a nation that has pursued atomic ambitions for decades.
Analysts have said that North Korea's provocations in recent years such as the March sinking of the South's warship Cheonan and the November shelling of the South's border island of Yeonpyeong could be in part aimed at building credentials for the heir-apparent son of leader Kim Jong-il.
The son, Kim Jong-un, was made a four-star general and given high-level posts in September in Pyongyang's first official step to put the inexperienced son in his 20s in line to take over the family dynasty. The regime has since been trying to extract loyalty for him from the hunger-stricken population.
In Washington, Director of National Intelligence James Clapper predicted Thursday that the North's leader could attempt further provocations to boost the standing of his heir-apparent son, saying the North's shelling attack was believed to be part of such efforts.
"Kim Jong-il may feel the need to conduct further provocations to achieve strategic goals and portray Jong-un as a strong, bold leader, especially if he judges elite loyalty and support are in question," Clapper said in written testimony to the House Intelligence Committee.