The South Korean intelligence report says it is highly probable that after the long-range rocket launch, North Korea will use the ensuing international condemnation as an excuse to go ahead with the nuclear test in Punggye-ri, the site in the country's northeast where the other two tests were conducted in 2006 and 2009.Japan is readying missile defense systems ahead of the North Korean test launch. The North continues to claim that it is a test of a civilian missile system and experts who have seen the missile note that it is configured for civilian purposes, but the missile would provide the North with critical data for use and incorporation in the North's long range missile program. The North has repeated given and/or sold technical data on missile technologies to countries such as Pakistan and Iran, and the North has also been a source of worry about nuclear proliferation.
The report, which said such a test would be considered a grave provocation, includes satellite images that it claims were filmed recently and show the final stages of a tunnel being dug at the site.
The photos show an unusual pile of earth and sand near the opening of the tunnel, and the report says this pile has been slowly increasing since March.
North Korean state media have not made an announcement regarding plans for a new nuclear test. Two senior U.S. officials said the United States also had reason to believe that the North was planning such an action.
"Once again this shows ...they know how to manipulate the world," said Andrei Lankov of Seoul's Kookmin University.
"If they do a missile launch and in few months a successful nuclear test, especially a uranium based nuclear device, it will send a very strong message to the world. The same message they always want to deliver -- we are here, we are dangerous, unpredictable and it's better to deal with us by giving us monetary and food concessions."
The missile test is timed to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the birth of Kim Il Sung, Jong Un's grandfather and founder of the North Korean regime.