North Korea will aim to create “psychological terror” by launching the so-called “Juche Bird” missile after the coronavirus seemingly slowed the weapon’s development, an expert claims.
Professor Sung-Yoon Lee, from Tufts University’s Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy in the US, claimed that If such a test took place, Pyongyang would attach a live nuclear warhead to an intercontinental ballistic missile.
The weapon would then travel across the Pacific Ocean before exploding, marking the world’s first atmospheric nuclear test since 1980.
Professor Lee believes the pandemic may have slowed progress – but believes such a test is almost inevitable.
He told Daily Star Online: “Last December, Kim Jong-un basically threatened to do something major, to introduce a new strategic weapon and we haven’t seen one yet.
“I think they probably had it in mind to do that early in the year and then the pandemic hit everyone.”
In 2017, the hermit kingdom’s foreign minister Ri Yong-ho also warned it could test a powerful hydrogen bomb over the Pacific Ocean after US President Donald Trump threatened to “totally destroy” North Korea.
Commenting on his remarks, Prof Lee added: “When North Korea is very specific like that, as relating to what the great leader intends, it’s usually not just an empty threat.
“I think North Korea has even the technical, political need to cross that threshold – to demonstrate to the world and to instil psychological terror in the world by having a mushroom cloud explode visibly in the air or in outer space.”
He continued: “I would actually be surprised if North Korea withheld, refrained from carrying out such a test over the course of the next several years.”
Last month, a US Army report warned Pyongyang has up to 60 nuclear weapons and a 5,000-tonne stockpile of chemical weapons.
The calculations were made in a report by the US Department of the Army, called North Korean tactics.
Sections warn the regime may be able to obtain 100 such weapons by the end of this year, South Korean news agency Yonhap reported.
It reads: “Estimates for North Korean nuclear weapons range from 20-60 bombs, with the capability to produce six new devices each year.”
North Korea is supposedly the third biggest possessor of chemical agents, with 2,500-5,000 tonnes and 20 different types, the research adds.
Last weekend, Chang Song-min, an ex-aide to late-South Korean president Kim Dae-jung, claimed that Kim was comatose following similar reports in April .
He also said that Kim was preparing to hand over the reins to younger sister Kim Yo-jong, 33.
However, pictures later emerged of the tyrant chairing a coronavirus meeting and visiting cornfields damaged by a typhoon.