North Korea’s Kim Jong Un lauded the country’s latest test of a rocket engine as a "great leap forward," according to state media in March. The rocket and other weapons development could mean simultaneous nuclear tests are next, South Korean analysts say. File Photo by KCNA/EPA
March 30 (UPI) -- Multiple or simultaneous tests of plutonium and uranium bombs could be North Korea's next provocation.
A South Korean military source told local news service News 1 on Thursday that the "possibility of a different kind of test cannot be ruled out," while adding the army is "prepared for various possibilities."
The report comes at a time when North Korea is commemorating the fourth anniversary of Kim Jong Un's policy of pursuing economic and nuclear power.
Workers' Party newspaper Rodong Sinmun said the United States no longer holds a monopoly over nuclear power on the peninsula.
"We have nothing to fear in this world, and nothing we cannot do, because we possess a nuclear deterrent," the newspaper stated.
The article also praised the test of a new rocket engine on March 18, describing the event as the "birth of a firmly transformed rocket industry" and a "historical occasion."
North Korea's announcements and past actions, including its claims of a hydrogen bomb test in January 2016, could mean the country may be preparing a test of a nuclear warhead, the logical next step for Pyongyang, according to Kim Dong-yup, a professor at Kyungnam University's Institute for Far East Studies in South Korea.
"If North Korea has the ability to produce hydrogen bombs, there is a high likelihood the sixth nuclear test would involve a nuclear warhead, small and lightweight enough to mount on an intercontinental ballistic missile," Kim said.
Seo Kyun-ryul, a nuclear engineering expert at Seoul National University, said simultaneous tests are a possibility, but ruled out a Pakistan-style experiment.
In 1998, Pakistan conducted five simultaneous underground nuclear tests, a feat that is not within North Korea's reach, Seo said.
But the analyst did say it is likely North Korea has the capacity to conduct simultaneous tests of uranium and plutonium bombs.
North Korea has blamed U.S.-South Korea joint military exercises for increasing tensions on the peninsula, and in a rare move summoned European Union diplomats in Pyongyang to protest the exercises, according to KCNA.
North Korea's foreign ministry warned that the country has the capability to respond to "any war the United States wants," according to Pyongyang's news agency.