American speculation is mounting that North Korea will soon be testing a nuclear-capable missile. This follows a seismic event that the Kim regime claimed was its first successful hydrogen bomb test.
Japan and the United State regularly monitor North Korean test sites for activity via satellite. Two U.S. officials told AFP that the Communist state's Sohae satellite complex is buzzing with activity.
The North has launched satellites into orbit before, most recently in 2012, but the same U.S. officials believe the technology used for those launches could be used for intercontinental ballistic missile launches as well.
International bodies are still struggling with how to respond to the hydrogen bomb test. There isn't much left to sanction in North Korea. China, the North's largest trading partner, is unlikely to slap any more restrictions on trade with the Kim regime without a direct threat to itself or its interests.
Why does North Korea act so provocatively? According to former Soviet diplomat Alexei Lankov, the saber rattling is a function of the nation being starved for resources and strapped for cash. The North's military mobilizes while the government threatens South Korea, all in an effort to convince the west that the only way to prevent war is to provide funding and grain. But Kim's strategy has backfired, resulting in sanctions rather than assistance.
"All the nuclear test proved is the North still does not have a reliable launch vehicle," Lankov told Fox News.
North Korea is said to have over a thousand missiles of varying capabilities, but is not yet known to have developed a nuclear-capable warhead. Its longest-range missile, the Taepodong-2, has a advertised range of 6,000 kilometers, but the North has never successfully tested one.
If the North Korean Taepodong-2 missile becomes operational, it would be be able to hit America's Pacific allies as well as U.S. bases on Okinawa, Guam, and most of Alaska.