South Korea’s intelligence agency said on Monday that the North appears to be preparing for a ballistic missile launch to occur on significant upcoming dates, likely of the ICBM variety.
Defence and intelligence officials have briefed the South Korean parliament of the North Korean situation in a closed session in the capital Seoul.
South Korean news agency Yonhap says the North could fire an ICBM towards the North Pacific as a test, citing a lawmaker quoting the National Intelligence Service.
North Korea may launch the projectile on the anniversary of the regime’s founding this Saturday, or on the anniversary of the establishment of supreme leader Kim Jung-un’s Workers’ Party on Oct 10.
The NIS also told assembled lawmakers that more analysis is needed to verify whether North Korea’s recent nuclear test was an electromagnetic pulse-based bomb or the hydrogen variety that Pyongyang claimed it was.
“There is a possibility that the North could make additional provocations by firing an ICBM toward the North Pacific,” Yonhap quoted the lawmaker as saying.
South Korea’s defense minister said later on Monday that they believe that Pyongyang has in their arsenal a warhead-sized nuclear weapon.
The Republic of Korea, the official name for the South, said that it will deploy four Terminal High Altitude Area Defence, or THAAD, systems in response to the North Korean threat.
Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said earlier on Monday that his country’s anti-missile defense systems will also be stepped up.
Apparent successful test of bomb
On Sunday, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, or DPRK, successfully carried out a hydrogen bomb test which can be strapped on to an intercontinental ballistic missile, or ICBM.
Initially recorded at a 6.3 magnitude earthquake originating from the North’s nuclear testing site, Japan and South Korea have confirmed the test, with the South claiming it was a 50 kiloton bomb.
DPRK state television reported that Sunday’s test was a “perfect success” and a “meaningful” step towards completing its nuclear weapons program, which Pyongyang would like to use as a deterrent against threats towards leader Kim Jung-un’s regime.
The international community has largely condemned the nuclear tests, most notably the DPRK’s greatest ally, China.
US President Donald Trump said that no options were off the table in regards to military response to North Korea’s aggression following the test. He threatened cutting off all trade with any country that traded with the DPRK in a tweet sent on Sunday evening eastern time.
Mr Trump’s Secretary of Defence Gen James Mattis followed up later on Sunday after meeting the president at the White House, saying that any threat posed by North Korea to the US or its allies would be met with a “massive military response, a response both effective and overwhelming.”
The BRICS economic alliance including Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa have condemned the North’s sixth nuclear test, saying they “strongly deplore” the action in a statement posted on Monday.
Eli Ridder, Senior Correspondent