South Korea Predicts Nuclear Test by North Korea This Year

Posted January 11th, 2012 at 5:40 am (UTC-5)
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A South Korean government research agency says North Korea's new leader will either order a third nuclear test or a long-range missile launch later this year.

A report issued Wednesday by the Institute for Foreign Affairs and National Security warns that Kim Jong Un will engage in “military adventurism” to boost his image as a military leader, as well as his grip on power. It predicts the tests will be conducted in late 2012 or early 2013, when both the United States and South Korea will hold presidential elections.

The institute, which is affiliated with the foreign ministry, says the nuclear test could utilize material from the North's uranium enrichment facility, which it unveiled in 2010.

The United States and South Korea, along with Japan, China and Russia, have been negotiating with Pyongyang to shut down its nuclear weapons program in exchange for economic aid. North Korea withdrew from the talks in 2009 and conducted its second nuclear test soon after.

The South Korean research agency predicts the six-party talks could resume in the first half of this year, but would hardly make any progress.

North Korea's powerful military held a mass rally in Pyongyang earlier this week to pledge its loyalty to Kim Jong Un, who was proclaimed the country's new leader shortly after the death of his father Kim Jong Il last month.