A concert in Pyongyang in February 2012 commemorates the birthday of North Korea's late leader, Kim Jong Il. The backdrop shows a North Korean rocket that was launched in April 2009 — and was followed a month later by a nuclear test.
As North Korea reaches the final stage of preparations for a long-range rocket launch, concern is growing that it is in the early stages of preparing its underground test site for another nuclear explosion.
Pyongyang established the pattern three years ago when it tested a similar rocket and then followed it a month later with a nuclear test.
This time around, there may be a more urgent need to test a nuclear device. The bomb is very likely the result of a significant expansion of North Korea's nuclear weapons program.
A North Korean soldier stands guard in front of the Unha-3 (Milky Way 3) rocket on a launchpad at the West Sea Satellite Launch Site, during a guided media tour by North Korean authorities northwest of Pyongyang on April 8.
As North Korea gears up to launch a long-range rocket, political changes are afoot, too: Pyongyang has consolidated its succession process, giving a new title to its new leader, Kim Jong Un, who came to power in December after his father's death.
The rocket launch, which could come as early as Thursday in North Korea, has been condemned by the international community as being in violation of U.N. Security Council resolutions. So why now?
Acehnese women hug each other shortly after the powerful earthquake hit the western coast of Sumatra in Banda Aceh.
Credit Chaideer Mahyhuddin / AFP/Getty Images
A powerful, 8.6-magnitude earthquake and an 8.2-magnitude aftershock off the west coast of Northern Sumatra today led authorities to warn that potentially devastating tsunamis might roar across the Indian Ocean.
But to the relief of millions who were immediately reminded of the devastating tsunami that rolled across that ocean in 2004, the waves generated by today's temblors were minor and the tsunami "watch" was canceled just before 9 a.m. ET.
The other welcome news: Initial reports indicated that damage from the quakes themselves may not have been extensive.
A huge earthquake shook the ocean floor off the coast of Indonesia Wednesday. Early measurements by the U.S. Geological Survey give it a strength of 8.7. Surrounding nations have issued tsunami warnings.