North Korea Preparing For More Tests and Iran Under the Microscope

South Korean and US intelligence have recently reported that 30 Scud Short Range Ballistic Missiles (SRBMs) were moved from Hwangju, south of the capital Pyongyang, to a missile maintenance facility in the western coastal city of Nampo. It is believed that North Korea is preparing to fire multiple SRBMs on or about the opening of the Chinese Communist Party’s twice-a-decade congress on October 18th. If true, this would be the fourth time in just over a year that North Korea has overshadowed a major Chinese event with previous missile tests coinciding with the unveiling of President Xi Jinping's global economic blueprint during the ‘Belt and Road’ summit in May 2017, the Chinese-hosted G20 in September 2016, and the recent nuclear test during the Chinese BRICS summit in September 2017.

As well, North Korea has warned that joint US-South Korean war games due to start Monday may force Pyongyang to fire Intermediate Range Ballistic Missiles (IRBMS) at Guam, which it had previously threatened to do in August. Recent satellite photos show that North Korea’s experimental Sinpo-class conventionally-powered ballistic missile submarine has moved from its dock meaning that work on the submarine has been completed and that it may be preparing for its long-awaited next test of a Submarine Launched Ballistic Missile (SLBM). North Korea has also been seen preparing for another Inter-Continental Ballistic Missile (ICBM) launch. It is important to note, that Japan’s House of Representatives is undergoing a General Election at this time and North Korea would like to influence that event set for October 22nd.

Lastly, today another small earth quake with a magnitude of 2.9 was recorded at a depth of 5 kilometers north-east of Sungjibaegam, near the Hermit Kingdom’s nuclear test facility. It is not yet known whether it was a nuclear test or potentially a cave in related to previous tests. But there was another small earthquake in the region following the nuclear test in September of a 3.4 magnitude that China said was a likely "explosion." It is believed that North Korea’s last underground thermonuclear test which had a magnitude of 100 kilotons or more may have damaged the mountain where the tests take place at Punggy-ri leading to tunnels and parts of the mountain collapsing. All previous North Korean underground nuclear tests had a minimum threshold of earthquakes with a magnitude 4.3 or above, meaning if these are nuclear tests, and not collapsing of tunnels or the mountain itself, that they could be flawed nuclear explosions or potentially the signature of Electro-Magnetic Pulse (EMP) weapons under development.

In a related development, US President, Donald Trump, slammed the Obama administration’s Iranian nuclear deal that he had previously promised to scrap by saying that it was no longer in the US national security interest. But he stopped short of an outright scrapping the nuclear restrictions, and instead, put the US Congress in charge of whether or not to follow up with new sanctions over the next 60-days. Iran and the Permanent Five of the UN Security Council settled on a deal in July 2015 to eased sanctions on Iran in exchange for increased international monitoring of its military nuclear program. The agreement reduced the amount of nuclear fuel Iran could keep on hand, and extended the time required for Tehran to build a nuclear weapon. While the UN and US State Department have said Iran is following the deal, German intelligence reports from September and October revealed that Iran tried 32 times to obtain nuclear and ballistic missile related technologies that were banned under the nuclear deal and other international restrictions meaning that Iran is cheating. In real terms, the end of the international sanctions regime left Iran flush with cash, and allowed it to fund terror across the Middle East, as well as to continue its covert cooperation with North Korea on both long-range missiles and nuclear weapons.

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