Russia, North Korea may be planning ‘October surprise’ ahead of election: 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 heighten tensions in the Asia-Pacific region, six senior US officials told NBC News.


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

The US 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 go-ahead, the officials added.

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

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

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


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

Two years into the conflict, North Korea provides Russia with more munitions than Europe provides to Ukraine.

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

Experts are also worried that Russia may help North Korea finalize preparations to field its first nuclear-armed submarine.

“The higher-end Russia technical assistance comes in forms that are very difficult indeed to monitor,” one senior official told NBC of the supposed exchanges.

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

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


Moscow could now be helping Pyongyang make progress towards a long-range ballistic missile that could fly thousands of miles and then re-enter the atmosphere completely intact, US officials warned.

A nuclear-capable missile with re-entry capabilities would be a major challenge for US defense systems.

There has also been an uptick in activity at Tunnel No. 3 at the Punggye-ri nuclear facility, which could indicate preparations for another test.

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


Experts are hoping that Russia will hesitate to push North Korea to provoke the US on the eve of the November election due to Putin’s close ties with China, the outlet added. China generally balks at creating further instability in the region.

Still, tensions in the area continue to run high due in part to the outbreak of two wars in two years: the conflict in Ukraine, and the Israel-Hamas war that started last October.

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

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