North Korea is widely expected to conduct another missile test within the next ten days to mark two major political events.
Some kind of provocation could arrive as early as Tuesday, Oct. 10, as the rogue nation celebrates the 72nd anniversary of its ruling Workers Party, experts said. Oct. 18, which marks the beginning of China's 19th Party Congress, could be another ideal opportunity for North Korean leader Kim Jong Un to act out against stinging sanctions.
Both events are "good opportunities for Kim to make headlines, and intelligence suggests that Pyongyang is moving missiles to prepare for another test," said Scott Seaman, Asia director at political consultancy Eurasia, in a recent note.
Oct. 10, or Party Foundation Day, is an annual public holiday in the secretive state. It's typically celebrated by military parades, speeches and performances. This year, a ballistic missile test could be on the docket too.
"The North Koreans love to fire off their missiles or have their nuclear tests coincide with a big anniversary. That's the way they operate....On the 10th, there might be some kind of missile fired," Evelyn Farkas, nonresident senior fellow at the Atlantic Council, told CNBC's "Squawk Box" on Monday.
On Oct. 15 last year, Pyongyang carried out its seventh test of the intermediate-range ballistic missile known as Musudan and followed up with another test on Oct 19.
Russian lawmaker Anton Morozov, fresh from a visit to the nuclear-armed state, said he believes Kim "intends to launch one more long-range missile in the near future," Russia's RIA news agency reported last week. "They are preparing for new tests of a long-range missile. They even gave us mathematical calculations that they believe prove that their missile can hit the West Coast of the United States," RIA quoted him as saying.
President Donald Trump's inflammatory language could also motivate Pyongyang to stage further provocations.
On Saturday, Trump said on Twitter that years of diplomacy and financial incentives had failed to sway the communist regime and that "only one thing will work," hinting at the prospect of armed conflict.
Trump's remarks could "further dampen Pyongyang's already minimal desire to pursue a diplomatic settlement before it acquires the nuclear-capable ICBM that Kim believes would allow him to engage in talks from a position of strength," said Eurasia's Seaman.
Kim, who recently promoted his younger sister in a significant consolidation of power, could also use the Chinese Party Congress to put on a show of defiance for the international community.
Hailed as the mainland's 'Game of Thrones,' the all-important Congress will decide the leadership of China's Communist Party for the next five years and is the country's biggest political event.
The relationship between Chinese President Xi Jinping and Kim is "pretty bad," Farkas said. "They have a lack of respect for one another — that's been exacerbated lately by the fact that the Chinese have jumped in with us [the United States] under the umbrella of U.N. sanctions."
Traditionally reluctant to coerce Pyongyang, but under heavy pressure from Washington, the world's second-largest economy has been increasingly clamping down on its historical ally.
Last month, Beijing announced its intention to restrict trade with North Korea on several key items, including textiles, seafood and petroleum products, in compliance with the U.N.'s latest resolution. It has also banned Chinese lenders from doing business with North Korean clients.