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Russia and North Korea could be planning an ‘October surprise’ before elections: report

The Biden administration is increasingly concerned that Russia and North Korea are planning an “October surprise” ahead of the US presidential election, according to a report.

The growing military alliance between Russian President Vladimir Putin and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un could expand Pyongyang’s nuclear arsenal and raise tensions in the Asia-Pacific region, six senior US officials told NBC News.

Putin and Kim are expected to reach a deal to expand military technology transfers to Pyongyang when the former visits North Korea in the coming weeks, the outlet said.

Vladimir Putin shakes hands with Kim Jong Un during a meeting at the Vostochny Cosmodrome last September. Via REUTERS

“2024 is not going to be a good year. It’s going to be kind of a roller coaster,” said Victor Cha, senior vice president for Asia and president of the Korea Center for Strategic and International Studies.

The United States is also on high alert for North Korea to take its most serious military actions in a decade just before the November presidential election, possibly with Putin’s blessing, the officials added.

“We have no doubt that North Korea will be provocative this year. It’s just a question of how scalable it is,” a US intelligence official told NBC.

The Biden administration is concerned about a possible “October surprise” from North Korea and Russia. AP

The timing of the provocations could be aimed at stirring up trouble abroad as American voters prepare to vote for Biden or former President Donald Trump.

US intelligence officials previously accused Moscow of interfering in the US election to put Trump in the White House.

The Biden administration’s relations with Russia are also extremely strained, particularly in the wake of the 2022 invasion of Ukraine, NBC noted.

U.S. officials believe Putin is providing North Korea with nuclear submarine and ballistic missile technology in exchange for munitions for the war in Ukraine, the outlet reported.

There are also concerns that North Korea could conduct another nuclear test. AP

Two years after the start of the conflict, North Korea provides Russia with more ammunition than Europe provides Ukraine.

In exchange, Pyongyang is allegedly asking Russia for ballistic missile parts, aircraft, rockets, armored vehicles and other advanced technologies, the officials said.

Experts are also concerned that Russia could help North Korea finalize preparations to deploy its first nuclear-armed submarine.

“High-level Russian technical assistance comes in forms that are very difficult to monitor,” a senior official told NBC of the alleged exchanges.

The growing relationship between Putin (right) and Kim (left) has US officials on high alert. AP

The United States has not had any major dialogue with the Kim regime for three years, officials told NBC.

The Biden administration reached out to North Korea again this year but reportedly received no response.

Anxiety is also heightened by signs that North Korea has continued to advance its missile program, including testing a hypersonic missile, NBC explained.

Moscow may now be helping Pyongyang move toward a long-range ballistic missile that could fly thousands of kilometers and then re-enter the atmosphere completely intact, U.S. officials have warned.

A missile with nuclear capability and reentry capability would be a major challenge for US defense systems.

There has also been an increase in activity in tunnel number 3 of the Punggye-ri nuclear facility, which could indicate preparations for another test.

Kim Jong Un inspecting a test-fire of a tactical ballistic missile last week. KCNA VIA KNS/AFP via Getty Images

“Both the United States and South Korea have assessed that North Korea has completed all necessary preparations to conduct a seventh nuclear test from the tunnel,” said Beyond Parallel, a project examining the Korean Peninsula at the Center for Strategic Studies and International.

“We are going to be ready and prepared (in the event of a nuclear test),” a senior Biden administration official told NBC.

Experts expect Russia to hesitate to pressure North Korea to provoke the United States ahead of the November elections because of Putin’s close ties to China, the outlet added. China generally resists creating further instability in the region.

Still, tensions in the area continue to rise due in part to the outbreak of two wars in two years: the conflict in Ukraine and the war between Israel and Hamas that began last October.

The Trump camp has repeatedly pushed the idea that both wars are the result of Biden’s leadership.

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