North Korea has told the Chinese regime that it plans to carry out possibly two more nuclear tests by the end of this year, just days after the communist country carried out an underground nuclear test. Another report this week said that North Korea might be upgrading its rocket launch facility.
A source with knowledge of the message to China told Reuters that additional nuclear tests might be accompanied by another rocket test. North Korea carried out a successful rocket launch test in December, which it said was for sending a satellite into space, a claim the United Nations Security Council and the United States disputed.
“It’s all ready. A fourth and fifth nuclear test and a rocket launch could be conducted soon, possibly this year,” the source, who was unnamed, told the news agency. North Korea has carried out a total of three nuclear tests since 2006.
The nuclear test will be much larger than the one carried out earlier this week, with an equivalent of 10 kilotons of TNT. The test this week was approximately six or seven kilotons.
The Reuters report comes just a day after experts in the United States said North Korea is upgrading one of its two launch sites, according to the 38 North website, which analyzes developments in the isolated country. It said that “important progress” was made “since late October 2012.”
“Commercial satellite imagery through January  confirms activity at the old launch pad, possibly to modify it in preparation for an upcoming test of a liquid-fueled rocket,” the website said. “While it would be premature to reach that conclusion without more recent imagery, press reports have speculated that [North Korea] is planning to conduct the first launch of the Musudan intermediate-range or the KN-08 long-range rocket, both mobile missiles.”
It is also possible that Pyongyang is readying another Unha-3 rocket launch, said 38 North, which is the website for the U.S.-Korea Institute at Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies in Baltimore. The Unha-3 is the type of rocket that was successfully launched in December.
“Imagery of the new launch pad and support buildings indicates that Pyongyang will be able to test rockets perhaps three to four times the size of the Unha when construction is completed, possibly in 2016, depending on the pace of construction,” it said.
There is also evidence that North Korea might be getting assistance from Iran.
“A new flame trench covering to protect large rockets from exhaust gases is similar to the covering used at a new launch pad at the Semnan Launch Complex in Iran. Also, propellant conduits under construction for the new launch pad and rocket engine test stand are similar to those built at Semnan,” 38 North said.
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