With the conclusion of the 20th National Congress of the Chinese Communist Party, which confirmed Chinese President Xi Jinping’s third consecutive term, there is speculation that North Korea's seventh nuclear test is imminent. U.S. nuclear experts say North Korea could conduct a series of nuclear tests, including tactical nuclear tests and a hydrogen bomb test at a third secretive nuclear test site other than the Punggye-ri nuclear test site where the first to sixth nuclear tests were conducted.
“North Korea will be waiting for Chairman Kim Jong Un’s decision on the timing of additional nuclear tests,” Olli Heinonen, a special researcher at the Stimson Center who served as the deputy director general of the International Atomic Energy Agency, told Radio Free Asia on Friday. "We need to prepare for the possibility of the North conducting the test at a place other than Punggye-ri.”
Earlier on Thursday, Beyond Parallel under the US think tank Center for Strategy and International Studies said. At the same time, preparations for a nuclear test in Tunnel 3 were completed, the restoration work for Tunnel 4 was stopped. Beyond Parallel announced this after analyzing satellite images of Punggye-ri taken on Sunday last week. This outlet also noted that North Korea has the resources to conduct nuclear tests elsewhere. As the Punggye-ri Tunnel 3 is considered a site for testing tactical nuclear weapons and the restoration of Tunnel 4, which is used for large-scale explosion tests, is being delayed, watchers say North Korea could seek to conduct a series of nuclear tests at a secretive nuclear test site.
Bruce Bennett, a senior researcher at the Rand Institute, told RFA that North Korean leader Kim has to detonate a bigger weapon to get much attention, adding that the North will grant itself the status of a nuclear state.”
David Albright, the director of the Institute for Science and International Security, told Voice of America that if the test is a high-power test of 100 to 150 kt (kilotons) or more, it means (the North) is seeking to develop a thermonuclear bomb (hydrogen bomb) that can be loaded on missiles.”