North Korea Likely to Test a Nuclear Device in 2013
North Korean news service photo of a multi-stage rocket launched by North Korea in defiance of international sanctions on December 12, 2012. While the rocket lifted a satellite into orbit, most Western experts believe the launch was actually a test of a long-range missile capable of carrying a nuclear warhead as far as the United States. (KNS/AFP/Getty Images)
January 25, 2013
| Security
| Asia and the Pacific

Although North Korea's bellicose rhetoric is nothing new, its recent threats against the United States and South Korea are unusually vitriolic and have probably set it on an unalterable path toward the testing of a nuclear device this year. Pyongyang’s threats represent a major escalation in its rhetoric and a new challenge to regional and American security. In this special analysis, LIGNET looks at the meaning of North Korea’s new threats and discusses the likely size and capabilities of its nuclear and missile stockpiles.
North Korea’s recent threats were in response to a new UN Security Council resolution extending sanctions against the country in response to a long-range missile test last month. As harsh as this new rhetoric was, it is unclear whether it represented a knee-jerk emotional response or a change in course from what appeared to be a slightly more cooperative approach to the outside world by Kim Jong Un. By engaging in these new provocative threats, the regime likely is seeking to deter future sanctions or other retaliatory actions by the United States and the UN Security Council while reminding the world that it may react unpredictably if cornered. It also is probably engaging in the same counterintuitive thinking of the Kim Jong Il era that provocative acts and rhetoric will eventually lure the United States, Japan, and South Korea back to the negotiating table where they will again offer North Korea incentives to convince it to moderate its behavior.
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