Another nuclear test would just be another page in North Korea’s provocation playbook so I would not be surprised if they do execute one this year:
North Korea has repaired flood damage at its nuclear test facility and could conduct a quick atomic explosion if it chose, though water streaming out of a test tunnel may cause problems, analysis of recent satellite photos indicates.
Washington and others are bracing for the possibility that if punished for a successful long-range rocket launch on Dec. 12 that the U.N. considers a cover for a banned ballistic missile test, North Korea’s next step might be its third nuclear test.
Rocket and nuclear tests unnerve Washington and its allies because each new success puts North Korean scientists another step closer to perfecting a nuclear warhead small enough to put on a missile that could hit the mainland United States.
Another nuclear test, which North Korea’s Foreign Ministry hinted at on the day of the rocket launch, would fit a pattern. Pyongyang conducted its first and second atomic explosions, in 2006 and 2009, weeks after receiving U.N. Security Council condemnation and sanctions for similar long-range rocket launches.
North Korea is thought to have enough plutonium for a handful of crude atomic bombs, and unveiled a uranium enrichment facility in 2010, but it must continue to conduct tests to master the miniaturization technology crucial for a true nuclear weapons program.
‘‘With an additional nuclear test, North Korea could advance their ability to eventually deploy a nuclear weapon on a long-range missile,’’ said Daryl Kimball, executive director of the nongovernment Arms Control Association. [Boston Herald]