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South Korea Says Another North Korean Missile Test Is Imminent

It has been more than six weeks since North Korea has conducted a missile test, the longest lull so far this year, but that could be about to change, Reuters reported, citing unnamed South Korean military officials.

South Korean intelligence has detected a flurry of activity including the movement of vehicles has been detected at the North’s missile research facilities in Pyongyang, where the most recent missile test was conducted, pointing to another possible launch, South Korea’s Intelligence Service said in a briefing to lawmakers. It did not say how the activity was detected.

To be sure, this isn’t the first time South Korea has detected movement near the launch site. Similar reports emerged one month ago. The restive North also abstained during an Oct. 10 national holiday, and the Oct. 18 beginning of China's National Party Congress. It’s believed North Korea is developing a new long range missile capable of reliably striking targets on the US mainland. Meanwhile, the North has made no secret of its plans to perfect a nuclear-tipped missile capable of reaching the U.S. mainland. It regularly threatens to destroy the United States and its “puppet”, South Korea.

“There is a possibility of a new missile launch given the active movement of vehicles around the missile research institute in Pyongyang. The North will constantly push for further nuclear tests going forward, and the miniaturization and diversification of warheads,” the intelligence agency said at the briefing.

As the North prepares for its next missile test, concerns surrounding its nuclear-testing facility in the northwestern town of Punngye-ri have intensified as scientists from China, the US and South Korea have warned that another nuclear test could trigger a full-on collapse of the mountain above the underground test site. In fact, the tunnels beneath the mountain have already started caving in, as a Japanese TV station revealed when it reported that one collapsing tunnel buried more than 200 North Korean workers alive.

The North conducted a test of what’s believed to have been a hydrogen bomb on Sept. 3 - its sixth nuclear test since 2006. The explosion triggered an aftershock within eight minutes, and three additional low intensity quakes that triggered landslides at the test site. Pyongyang will likely detonate more devices as it tries to master the miniaturization of nuclear warheads to put atop missiles, the lawmakers said, but intelligence reports have suggested that it might conduct its next test in a different part of the massive underground facility.

The third tunnel at the Punggye-ri complex remained ready for another test “at any time”, while construction had resumed at a fourth tunnel, making it unable to be used “for a considerable amount of time”, they added.

That test prompted the UN Security Council to impose another round of economic sanctions against the restive communist state.

President Trump is leaving tomorrow for his first tour of Asia since taking office. Regional security - with an eye toward North Korea - is expected to be a major topic of discussion. But as we recently reported, while North Korea remains the most imminent threat in the Pacific, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Joseph Dunford said China’s increasing assertiveness in the Pacific could pose a greater long-term threat.

As we reported last week, the US Navy is planning to conduct an extremely rare naval exercise involving three aircraft carriers to coincide with Trump's Asia tour. If the North is waiting for some type of justification, it won't find much better than this.