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Former US Commander Sees N. Korean Nuclear Breakthrough 'Unlikely'

Amphibious assault vehicles of the South Korean Marine Corps throw smoke bombs as they move to land on shore during a U.S.-South Korea joint landing operation drill in Pohang, South Korea, March 31, 2014.
A former commander of the United States Forces Korea says he does not believe North Korea has the ability to conduct a threatened "new form" of nuclear test.

Pyongyang in late March declared it "would not rule out a new form of nuclear test” if the United States and South Korea did not cancel planned military exercises. This week, South Korea warned this week that its neighbor will suffer "unimaginable consequences" if it goes ahead with a such a test.

But retired General James Thurman said in an interview with the VOA Korean Service Friday that if Pyongyang does conduct another test, it will likely be similar to its three previous tests.

Two of those tests used plutonium as the fissile material. Experts say it is unclear whether the third test used plutonium or enriched uranium to fuel the weapon.

Gen. Thurman served as the commander of the United Nations Command, ROK-US Combined Forces Command, and U.S. Forces Korea from July 2011 to October 2013.

Retired General Burwell Bell, another former USFK commander, says the chances of the North using highly enriched uranium in a new nuclear test are slim.

Bell predicts that any new form of nuclear test would involve “either a smaller weaponized type of bomb or a larger detonation bomb.”

Reporting from Korean Service's Sungwon Baik and Jee Abbey Lee
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    Jee Abbey Lee

    Jee Abbey Lee is a veteran broadcast journalist with more than 10 years of experience in TV, radio, and the web. She serves as Voice of America's social media correspondent and is an expert of millennial lifestyle. 

    Lee received her graduate degree from the Medill School of Journalism at Northwestern University. Prior to joining VOA, she worked at the Seoul bureau of CNN Travel and served as the chief Bank of Korea correspondent for Arirang TV.