South Korean spy agencies fear North Korea may fire an "array of ballistic missiles" before the year's end in a bid to show its strength and deter the United States and its allies from further interference in Pyongyang's nuke and missile programs.
South Korea’s parliamentary intelligence committee was briefed by Seoul’s National Intelligence Service in a closed door meeting Monday where new intelligence on North Korea was discussed, Reuters reported. North Korea launched its last missile in early September, with the ICBM flying over Japan.
“The agency is closely following the developments because there is a possibility that North Korea could fire an array of ballistic missiles this year under the name of a satellite launch and peaceful development of space, but in fact to ratchet up its threats against the United States,” lawmakers told reporters.
There were no signs that Kim Jong Un planned to carry out a nuclear test since North Korea's last one on Sept. 3, the agency said, though it stressed it “is possible any time.”
"But we forecast that depending upon North Korean leader Kim's determination, a nuclear test is possible any time," the agency said, according to Yonhap News Agency.
Despite reports that the Punggye-ri test site, where North Korea conducts its nuclear tests, is on the verge of collapsing, at least one tunnel is available and prepped for a nuke test. Another tunnel is under construction and one had been left unattended, Yonhap reported.
North Korea announced in late October a five-year space plan, pushing the regime to follow the “global trend” for economic prosperity. But Yonhap, citing the South Korean officials, warned the so-called space program may be used as a cover-up for the tests to make them appear as a “peaceful” act. The regime has vehemently defended its nuclear and missile programs as a necessary deterrent against U.S. threats.
Last week, North Korea’s state media lambasted “old lunatic” President Trump for attempting to unite world leaders against Kim during Trump's five-country Asia tour earlier this month. Trump, during a speech, warned the North Korean despot to “not underestimate” the U.S.
"We forecast that depending upon North Korean leader Kim's determination, a nuclear test is possible any time."
“We will not allow American cities to be threatened with destruction. We will not be intimidated,” Trump said. “The world cannot tolerate the menace of a rogue regime that threatens it with nuclear devastation.”
The South Korean spy agency also discovered North Korea was “undertaking an inspection of the military politiburo” because of “impure attitude toward the party leadership.” This is the first inspection in 20 years, according to Reuters. Choe Ryong Hae, who led the General Political Bureau of the Korean People’s Army before he was replaced, orchestrated the probe. Choe was promoted in October to the regime’s Central Military Commission.
Hwang Pyong So and Kim Won Hong, the military’s general Political Bureau’s chief and deputy chief, were removed last January and were punished, though it's unclear what exactly happened to them.