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Will North Korea time its third nuclear test to coincide with Kim Jong-il's birthday?

Dates and numbers have great symbolic importance to North Korea, so Pyongyang often schedules what Washington calls 'provocative acts' around holidays and important political events.

By FOSTER KLUGAssociated Press / February 6, 2013

People watch a television program showing a propaganda video released by North Korea at Seoul Railway Station in Seoul, South Korea, Wednesday.

Lee Jin-man/AP


Seoul, South Korea

So when will it be?

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North Korea vowed last month to carry out its third nuclear test but has said nothing about timing. As a result, the building suspense in Seoul has prompted many to look at the dates Pyongyang has chosen for past atomic tests, as well as rocket and missile launches.

Dates and numbers have great symbolic importance to North Korea's government. So Pyongyang often schedules what Washington calls "provocative acts" around US holidays and important South Korean political events, an effort to send none-too-subtle messages to its main enemies — Washington and Seoul. Pyongyang also uses the tests to give a nationalistic boost to its citizens, often favoring significant milestones of the state, party and ruling Kim family.

Here's a look at the "meaningful dates" North Korea has selected for past tests and launches, as well as future key dates on which Pyongyang might choose to stage its third nuclear test:

US Holidays and political events

Both previous nuclear tests were conducted as Americans celebrated US holidays: Oct. 9, 2006, was Columbus Day; May 25, 2009, was Memorial Day.

North Korea also conducted missile tests on America's Independence Day in 2006. It launched a long-range rocket just a few months after Obama's first inauguration in 2009.

Some speculate that Pyongyang might make good on its atomic threat on the upcoming Feb. 18 federal holiday. That day is Washington's Birthday, also known as Presidents Day. South Korea's foreign minister has also suggested President Obama's State of the Union address on Feb. 12.

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