As expected, North Korea is apparently preparing for its third nuclear test, according to South Korean intelligence officials. This is in line with typical North Korean behavior — in the past, it has tested missiles first followed by a nuclear test witnessed in 2006 and 2009.
Pyongyang is expected to fire its long-range rocket Kwangmyeongseong-3 sometime next week. The regime continues to claim it is a rocket aimed at launching a satellite in orbit for peaceful scientific purposes, but the international community views the act intended to ultimately launch a long-range missile tipped with a nuclear warhead. UN Security Council Resolution 1874 clearly defines the technology used for this long-range “rocket” as a missile.
The remaining members of the six-party talks, particularly Seoul, Washington and Tokyo, are preparing for united action immediately following next week’s planned launch such as taking the issue to the UN Security Council. Beijing and Moscow have hardened their public rhetoric, but they may not follow suit with tough action at the UN Security Council.
The 2006 and 2009 missile and nuclear tests were met by UN Security Council resolutions and sanctions, but Beijing and Moscow may not agree to even stronger sanctions at the Council this time.
Another option is slapping financial sanctions similar to those as seen during the Banco Delta Asia case in 2005 that froze North Korean assets in the Macao-based bank.