Defense

US Allies Worried North Korea’s Readying An October Surprise

KCNA/via REUTERS

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Ryan Pickrell China/Asia Pacific Reporter
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South Korea and Japan are concerned that North Korea is prepping a ballistic or nuclear surprise for next month.

Japanese Defense Minister Itsunori Onodera warned Friday that North Korea may engage in dangerous provocations next month. The Japanese defense minister’s call for caution came after South Korean National Security Adviser Chung Eui-yong made a similar warning the day before.

There are several dates North Korea might choose to mark with its own special brand of fireworks. Oct. 9 is the anniversary of North Korea’s first nuclear test, Oct. 10 is the anniversary of the founding of the North Korean communist party, and Oct. 18 marks the start of the twice-in-a-decade Communist Party Congress in China.

North Korea has a tendency to mark holidays with displays of military might, and North Korea has demonstrated a willingness to ruin major Chinese events due to rising tensions between Beijing and Pyongyang. When China hosted the G-20 summit meeting last September, North Korea launched several Scud missiles and conducted a nuclear test.

“We would like to maintain a sense of urgency,” Onodera told reporters. In recent weeks, the North has threatened to launch more ballistic missiles into the Pacific Ocean, detonate a hydrogen bomb in the Pacific, and even shoot down American aircraft that fly too close.

North Korea conducted two ballistic missile tests last October, but both failed. Observers suspect that North Korea tested two Musudan intermediate-range ballistic missiles, but it is unclear exactly what the rogue regime tested.

The North has tested around two dozen missiles this year, including a variety of new missiles, and the regime is pursuing a more aggressive and provocative testing pattern, firing missiles over Japan. North Korea has also tested a staged thermonuclear weapon with an explosive yield many times more powerful than anything it has tested in the past.

While it is worth paying attention around key North Korean events, it should be noted that it is impossible to predict with any accuracy exactly when the North will conduct a ballistic missile or nuclear test.

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