North Korea's first ICBM Hwasong-14 and its detachable platform. Photo: KCNA
North Korea's first ICBM Hwasong-14 and its detachable platform. Photo: KCNA

There’s an increasing possibility that North Korea will engage in significant “weapons of mass destruction activities” in the next 30 days with the likelihood of a new ballistic missile test around December 17, according to an assessment by the Center for Strategic and International Studies.

CSIS, a respected Washington, D.C.-based think tank said on Sunday that its big data analysis shows elevated chances for provocations by the North in a coming two- to four-week window. Radio Free Asia, in separate news, also quoted a Chinese source over the weekend as saying that Pyongyang will probably carry out one more big nuclear test.

Testing lull explained

CSIS notes that December 17 is the date of previous North Korean leader Kim Jong-il’s death. Speculation about the timing of Pyongyang’s next tests are growing because experts have noted that no new missile tests have occurred for more than two months. Its last test was a Hwasong-12 intermediate-range ballistic missile launch on September 15.

The think tank says possible reasons for the lull include the technical obstacles of conducting missile tests in cold weather.

According to CSIS, North Korea has only conducted three missile tests in the final two months of the year in the five years since Kim Jong-un has been in power. It says another reason could be that Pyongyang typically conducts its annual military exercises in December, an activity that takes up the energies of the regime in the preceding two months.

CSIS says a final factor affecting whether leader Kim Jong-un goes ahead with a missile test are the actions of the Trump administration and the consequences of a visit to Pyongyang by a top Chinese diplomatic envoy last week.

New nuke test?

Separately, a Chinese source was quoted on Saturday by US government-backed Radio Free Asia as saying that North Korea will probably conduct another nuclear test before it completes its nuclear weapons program.

RFA, in a report picked up by other media, said its source had obtained the information from a senior North Korean Army officer. The source also says that the North’s next nuke explosion will be its most powerful. The timing of the next nuke test will be decided by Kim Jong-un, according to the source.