This week marks two significant dates for North Korea – the anniversaries of its first nuclear test and the foundation of the ruling Worker’s Party of Korea.
Officials have warned that North Korea could use the special dates – in particular, the Oct. 10 anniversary of the Worker’s Party – to provoke the U.S. or launch a new missile.
“There is a clarity of purpose in what (North Korean leader) Kim Jong Un is doing. I don’t think he’s done,” Yong Suk Lee, the deputy assistant director of the CIA’s Korea Mission Center, said at a conference last week, according to Reuters. “In fact, I told my own staff (that) Oct. 10th is the Korean Workers Party founding day. That’s Tuesday in North Korea, but Monday – the Columbus Day holiday – in the United States. So stand by your phones.”
As North Korea’s past provocations have coincided with dates important to them, the U.S., China or Japan, Dr. Sung-Yoon Lee, the Kim Koo-Korea Foundation Professor of Korean Studies at the Fletcher School at Tufts University, predicted the east Asian country could test a missile by late Monday night.
North Korea said it had “perfect success” with a hydrogen bomb test on Sept. 3, 2017, Labor Day weekend in the U.S. It said it tested its first nuclear bomb on Oct. 9, 2006, coinciding with Party Foundation Day in North Korea, Lee said.
Other nuclear tests have lined up with Memorial Day weekend in the U.S. in 2009, Lunar New Year celebrations in China in 2013, Kim Jong Un’s birthday in 2016 and the Day of the Foundation of the Republic in 2016.
North Korea also tested its first successful intercontinental ballistic missile on July 4, 2017.
“I have a feeling that they’re ready [for provocation] and they’re biding their time … for the most adverse impact,” Lee told Fox News Monday. He predicted that the country could fire a missile into the waters by Guam – which would illicit a response that would still be less than if Americans were killed.
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“They like to rub it in and spoil government officials’ long weekends,” Lee said.
A member of Russia’s lower house of parliament told local media that North Korea is preparing to test a long-range missile believed to reach the west coast of the U.S., according to The Guardian.
“They are preparing for new tests of a long-range missile. They even gave us mathematical calculations that they believe prove that their missile can hit the west coast of the United States,” Anton Morozov reportedly said last week after visiting Pyongyang.
As North Korea continues to develop its nuclear program, Kim and U.S. President Donald Trump are engaged in a war of words and threats. Trump promised last month to “totally destroy” the Asian nation if provoked.
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Lee also noted that China’s 19th party congress will meet later this month, and Trump is expected to visit China, Japan and South Korea in November – which could be when North Korea provokes next.
“They have a strategic game plan,” Lee said, dismissing the idea that North Korea simply “throws a tantrum” and launches missile tests.