North Korea is expected to watch closely how the administration of U.S. President Donald Trump responds to Iran's missile launch and what policy the new administration puts together on Pyongyang before it carries out its threatened missile test, a U.S. expert said Sunday.
"It has been my contention that N.K. would delay testing an ICBM or a nuclear test until they had a better read on the Trump administration. They will closely watch the U.S. response to Iran's test," Ken Gause, a senior North Korea analyst at CNA Corp. in Washington, told Yonhap News Agency.
North Korean leader Kim Jong-un said in his New Year's Day address that the country has entered the final stage of preparations to test-fire an intercontinental ballistic missile, an apparent threat that the North is close to developing a nuclear-tipped missile capable of striking the continental U.S.
In response, U.S. President Donald Trump vowed to stop the North from mastering such ICBM capabilities, saying that the North's development of a nuclear missile capable of striking the U.S. "won't happen," though he didn't elaborate on how he would stop it.
The Trump administration has shown toughness on Iran's missile test. The Treasury Department slapped fresh sanctions over the missile test. National Security Advisor Mike Flynn warned the U.S. was "officially putting Iran on notice." Asked if he's willing to consider a military option, Trump said Thursday that "Nothing is off the table."
Trump and aides have not outlined what their North Korea policy will look like.
But the White House has launched a review of North Korea policy to determine what the Trump administration could do differently to address concerns that North Korea could strike the U.S. with a nuclear missile, according to the Financial Times.
"The findings from such a review will have an important impact on Pyongyang's calculus. That will drive Kim Jong-un's longer term strategy of whether to test U.S. red lines or seek engagement," Gause said. "So what will North Korea do in the coming days and weeks? My sense is they will remain cautious."
The North Koreans must be confused about what the U.S. might do in response to their test, he said.
"They might launch a medium range missile to test the waters, so to speak. They might sit tight until the Trump administration clearly sets out its intentions toward Pyongyang," he said. "If they conduct an ICBM or nuclear test, it will indicate that Kim Jong-un has given up any hope for engaging the U.S. and needs to speed toward securing a nuclear deterrent." (Yonhap)