Any potential ICBM test, while a propaganda win for Pyongyang, would also reveal a great deal about the progress of North Korea’s weapons programme.
Military experts predicted that any test would only involve a missile with a range of under 2,500 kilometers (1,550 miles), less than half the usual ICBM range of 5,500 km (3,400 miles).
US-based monitoring project 38North said evidence suggested Pyongyang may also be preparing to resume operations at a plutonium production reactor at the Yongbyon Nuclear Scientific Research Center 90 kilometers (55 miles) north of the capital.
“Stepped-up activities throughout the Yongbyon Nuclear Scientific Research Center indicate that it is operating at a level somewhat above what has been observed during the past five years,” the report said.
“The exact implications of that activity remain unclear except to reaffirm that the Yongbyon facility remains the center of North Korea’s nuclear programme.”
Traditional nuclear weapons use plutonium (or uranium) as their main fuel. The “Fat Man” bomb the US dropped on Nagasaki used 14 pounds of plutonium, producing a blast equivalent to about 21,000 tons of TNT.