According to a professor at the state-run Korea National Diplomatic Academy, Jun Bong-geun, North Korea may launch ‘maximum gray-zone’ provocations as a response to anger over the absence of U.S. concessions by Pyongyang’s self-imposed year-end deadlines. There might not be a full launch; Pyongyang might have difficulty gaining support from China and Russia if North Korea decides to go all the way to an ICBM launch. Jun did not go into detail on the ‘gray zones provocations.’ To generate intense attention but not threaten the continental U.S., observers are thinking that Pyongyang could launch a satellite or intermediate-range or submarine-launched ballistic missiles within the ‘gray zones.’ Actions that could risk straining their relationships with China and Russia is unlikely. One particular reasons that an ICBM launch could irritate China is that Washington’s rationale behind its increased missile defense in the region could be justified.
The Crossroads of Special Operations