North Korea Christmas MISSILE LAUNCH: Is Kim Jong-un plotting test over festive holidays?

The Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) said December has usually seen a period of “high missile test activity” by the regime in the past five years. 

Analysts had expected Kim to carry out some sort of provocation on December 17 – the sixth anniversary of the death of his father Kim Jong-il.

They now fear he is planning a shock missile launch involving a “demonstration of a weapon of mass destruction” over the festive period.

Speculation has been mounting over when North Korea will next conduct a missile test after the communist regime has remained quiet for over two months now.

The absence of any recent missile tests has left international monitors puzzled after no warning was issued following this month’s South Korean-US military drills. 

To the surprise of outside commentators, North Korea has also not yet responded to the US re-designation of the regime as sponsors of terror. 

An official from the hermit kingdom has, however, claimed that North Korea’s nuclear threat is “only aimed at the US” and other countries “should not fear”. 

Ri Jong-hyok, the deputy of North Korea’s Supreme People’s Assembly and director of the National Reunification Institute, attempted to calm World War 3 fears by stating that the rogue nation only has a problem with the United States.

He said: “It’s the Korean people’s resolute decision that North Korea should face off with the US only with nuclear weapons to achieve the balance of power.

“Our nuclear deterrence is a sword of justice aimed at fighting US nuke and Asia and any country in the world need not worry about our threats as long as they do not join invasion and provocations toward us.”

A recent visit by Kim to the spiritually-significant Mount Paektu has also sparked fears he may be plotting a show of strength.

The volcano is traditionally a place leaders visit to contemplate big decisions and South Korean insiders believe the despot may be considering his vision for 2018.

An official said: “Kim has a lot on his plate, as next year is the 70th anniversary of the founding of the North Korean government.

“So he needs to deliver tangible results on the country’s politics, economy and diplomacy. So it is likely Kim thought through what he is going to present as his vision for next year during his visit to Mount Paektu.”

North Korea has test launched three ICBMs, the first was in July and the latest one Kim claimed was capable of reaching “all the US mainland”.

Photos from earlier December reveal a “consistently high” level of activity at the West portal of the Punggye-ri Nuclear Test Site, according to North Korea watchdog 38 North.

Mining carts, vehicles and personnel have been seen at the site suggesting a tunnel excavation is underway, as Pyongyang readies the tunnel for further nuclear testing.

North Korean intelligence recently reported “construction had resumed at a fourth tunnel (West Portal), making it unable to be used ‘for a considerable amount of time’.”

And the images show no new spoil has been added to the site, but the presence and movement of equipment have significantly increased.