Experts see possibility of N.K. conducting nuclear test before U.S. presidential vote

North Korea may carry out what would be its seventh nuclear test before the U.S. presidential election in November in efforts to increase its bargaining power in future talks with Washington, experts said Monday. The assessment came as North Korea has been ramping up weapons tests and aggressive rhetoric this year amid views that the North has completed preparations for another nuclear test at the Punggye-ri test site. "There is a possibility that North Korea may stage its seventh nuclear test after the third meeting of the Nuclear Consultative Group (NCG) in June and before the U.S. presidential election in November," Lee Sang-kyu, a researcher at the Korea Institute for Defense Analyses, said in a forum organized by the Institute for National Security Strategy. The upcoming NCG session that will take place in Seoul is expected to draw up guidelines encompassing a whole range of issues, including information sharing, security systems, consultation procedures for a nuclear crisis and the operation of a re al-time leader-level communication channel. Park Won-gon, a professor at Ewha Womans University, agreed that the possibility of North Korea carrying out a nuclear test before the U.S. election cannot be ruled out, especially if the North prefers former U.S. President Donald Trump as a counterpart for nuclear talks. North Korean leader Kim Jong-un and Trump held talks in Singapore in 2018 and in Hanoi in 2019, but no lasting deal was reached. Still, some experts said the North will refrain from another nuclear test for the time being. "There is a need, but there are also high risks of side effects," Chung Sung-yoon, a senior research fellow at the Korea Institute for National Unification, said. "There is no urgency for the North to push ahead with it while ignoring such risks." Source: Yonhap News Agency