The Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) will “not rule out a new form of nuclear test to bolster up its nuclear deterrence,” the DPRK’s foreign ministry announced on March 30. Further information about this “new form” of test was not revealed, but the U.S. and its allies have long suspected the DPRK was trying to develop a nuclear warhead small and sophisticated enough to mount on the intercontinental ballistic missile it was also developing.
The DPRK has completed preparations for a nuclear test, South Korea’s defense minister said on April 1. North Korea previously conducted nuclear weapons test explosions in October 2006, May 2009, and February 2013; each of which were within three months of conducting missile tests. Their testing of two Rodong midrange ballistic missiles on March 26 could suggests the possibility of a fourth nuclear test explosion in the near future.
In an analysis published on 38 North, Jeffrey Lewis of the James Martin Center for Nonproliferation Studies, suggested that the DPRK may be configuring its Punggye-ri site for multiple nuclear tests. Lewis notes, “North Korea may soon have access to regular amounts of fissile material if it doesn’t already,” and asks, “what if North Korea conducts a nuclear test, or even two, on an annual basis?”
The DPRK has yet to sign the CTBT and is one of eight states that need to ratify the treaty before it enters into force. At the U.N. General Assembly on December 3, 2012 the DPRK was the only nation to vote against a resolution supporting the CTBT. By contrast, 184 nations supported the resolution and three were absent (India, Mauritius, and Syria).