January 21, 2021

Expert roundup: Will North Korea test Biden with an ICBM launch in the new year?

Experts divided about the assumption that Pyongyang will seek to test Washington early in Biden's presidency

After North Korea revealed a new intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) at the Oct. 10 military parade, Pyongyang watchers have been increasingly debating whether the DPRK will soon give it a flight test. Speculation over such a launch grew after former U.S. Vice President Joe Biden won the presidency — after all, Biden is expected to approach North Korea in a way that's radically different from President Trump.

On the one hand, some observers point to precedent, which shows that North Korea often tested new administrations with satellite launches, missile and nuclear tests in the weeks or months after the inauguration. The logic is that these tests help grab the attention of the new president, potentially opening the door to negotiations on a more favorable basis for Pyongyang.