Nuclear Site Activity Suggests Pyongyang May Be Preparing For Another Test


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Ryan Pickrell China/Asia Pacific Reporter
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Regular activity has been detected around North Korea’s nuclear test site, pointing to the possibility of another test in the near future.

“Recent commercial satellite imagery of the Punggye-ri Nuclear Test Site from October 1 indicates continuing activity at all three tunnel complexes that could be used to conduct a nuclear test,” explained 38North, a blog operated by the U.S.-Korea Institute in the School of Advanced International Studies at John Hopkins University.

The ongoing activity at Punggye-ri could be data collection from North Korea’s fifth and most powerful nuclear test Sept. 9, but it could also be preparation for a sixth test.

One day prior to the last nuclear test, 38North spotted activity at Punggye-ri and mentioned that it could potentially be preparations for another test. The next day, North Korea tested a nuclear bomb with a yield of at least 10 kilotons.

North Korea’s actions could include “sealing the portal or other preparations related to a new test,” revealed the 38North report.

The timing is right for another test. Oct. 9 is the tenth anniversary of North Korea’s first nuclear test. “North Koreans often celebrate important events with spectacular shows,” explained U.S.-Korea Institute visiting scholar Joel S. Wit last month. He also noted that satellite images showed that Pyongyang is ready to launch at least three nuclear tests at any time.

Additionally, with U.S. elections rapidly approaching, it would make sense for North Korea to present a show of force. “Doing a major test would be a way of trying to intimidate the incoming president,” Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) Korea expert Victor Cha told CNN.

“North Korea chooses particular windows that they know will gain maximum attention from the world, and the U.S. in particular,” he added.

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