Provided the COVID-19 outbreak is under control by October, North Korea could stage a military provocation, such as a satellite launch, to mark the 75th anniversary of its Workers’ Party founding, said Ankit Panda, a senior editor at The Diplomat.
Speaking on Radio Free Asia on Thursday, Panda said October would be a critical moment for North Korean leader Kim Jong-un, who appears eager to “insert himself onto the US political agenda” ahead of the 2020 US presidential election in November.
Panda based his projection on a recently published editorial by Pyongyang’s state newspaper that urged its scientists to go on “the offensive for making a breakthrough head-on” and bring about “the socialist destruction.”
In January this year, Kim said the world would soon see a “new strategic weapon.”
But the expert said what exactly the “October surprise” would entail was up to Kim.
Also on Thursday, Rafael Mariano Grossi, director general of the International Atomic Energy Agency, said his agency was ready to field inspectors to North Korea once the US and relevant parties reach an agreement on Pyongyang’s denuclearization.
He added the verification process would not be easy, given North Korea’s expanded nuclear arsenal since 2009, when it expelled four IAEA inspectors upon the UN Security Council’s adoption of a resolution denouncing Pyongyang’s rocket launches.
“North Korea is a nuclear weapons state, illegally, and we don’t legally recognize that,” Grossi said.
The IAEA chief urged North Korea to comply with the resolutions the UN Security Council imposed on the communist state.
North Korea joined the IAEA in 1974 and signed the Non-proliferation Treaty in 1985, but it dropped out of the watchdog in 1994 and withdrew from the treaty in 2003.
By Choi Si-young (email@example.com