31st January 2023 – (Moscow) Pyongyang may conduct a nuclear test in 2023, thus such a development should not be ruled out, the general director of the Russian International Affairs Council, Andrey Kortunov, told TASS on Monday.
He is certain that harsher rhetoric by the United States or South Korea will do nothing to deter the DPRK’s leadership.
While analyzing the current tensions on the Korean Peninsula, the expert drew attention to South Korean President Yoon Sok-yeol’s statement in early January that South Korea might host nuclear weapons of another state or create its own, should the situation on the peninsula get worse due to North Korea’s nuclear program. Yoon’s statement came on the eve of NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg’s visits to Seoul and Tokyo, which a staffer of the DPRK’s International Policy Science Society, Kim Dong Myung, has already dubbed “a prelude to confrontation and war” in the Asia-Pacific Region (APR). Kortunov believes that against this background, it should not be ruled out that in its attempts to retaliate, Pyongyang may go as far as staging a nuclear test in 2023.
“We cannot write off this possibility,” he stressed. “Ballistic missile tests are already underway. Some very belligerent statements are being made by the North Korean leadership. Nuclear tests cannot be excluded. In any case, the DPRK, of course, will not give up nuclear weapons. This status is spelled out in the country’s Constitution.”
At the same time, Kortunov noted that South Korea and the United States’ harsher rhetoric will not work as a deterrent, while China does enjoy certain political influence on Pyongyang. “If Pyongyang shows restraint, it will do so not because of some statements by South Korea or the United States, or Japan. It may turn an attentive ear to China, since North Korean tests, to be carried out in the north, not far from the Chinese border, naturally, cause concern not only in the capitals of the DPRK’s geopolitical opponents, but also in Beijing and in Moscow,” he continued.
The expert pointed out that amid mutual distrust in the region one should expect wider bilateral cooperation between South Korea and the United States and between South Korea and Japan. Overall tensions in the Asia-Pacific Region may soar. “A variety of scenarios is possible,” Kortunov noted. “For one, the situation may aggravate along the demarcation line between North Korea and South Korea. Some clashes, provocations and an unintentional escalation are possible here. This is one possible scenario. Or, tensions in the Taiwan Strait, between the US and China may surge, if US-encouraged Taiwan begins to move more vigorously towards independence.”