Missile trucks gathering in Pyongyang. Activity at a key North Korean submarine facility. South Korean media reports about a possible U.S. visit by Kim Jong Un's sister.
After months of relative silence, North Korea has begun to stir in recent weeks, with signs that the regime is preparing for a fresh flourish of military might. That's stoked speculation that Kim might be planning an October surprise for President Donald Trump before the U.S. leader faces reelection on Nov. 3.
North Korea clearly favors Trump, extolling his "mysteriously wonderful" chemistry with Kim, while denouncing Democratic nominee Joe Biden as a "rabid dog" whose candidacy is "enough to make a cat laugh." Still, Kim may want to use the election spotlight to press his case for a deal to relax the international sanctions keeping his economy in recession.
The North Korean regime has a history stretching back decades of timing provocations around U.S. elections to grab maximum attention, according to a study by Beyond Parallel. The stakes may be one reason why South Korean President Moon Jae-in made a fresh plea for peace at the United Nations this week.
Here's some things to watch out for in October:
1. Missile Parade
Satellite images indicate that Kim is drilling for a military parade, expected to coincide with its massive celebration for the 75th anniversary of its ruling Workers' Party on Oct. 10. Recent imagery indicates a probable missile-related transport vehicle is near the training ground, the 38 North website said this week.
North Korea has used these parades before to show off its latest missiles. The one to watch this time would be an intercontinental ballistic missile that incorporates solid-fuel technology. This type of missile would be quicker to deploy and launch than the current liquid-fuel models - giving the U.S. less time to take it out on the pad or ready itself to intercept the rocket in the air.
Rolling out such a weapon now would show whoever wins the election that North Korea is increasing its ability to deliver a nuclear warhead that can hit the U.S. mainland. It would also undermine Trump's assertion that his diplomacy made sure North Korea was "no longer a nuclear threat."
2. New Submarine