Images show North Korea may conduct its 5th nuclear test: US think tank

  • Reuters, Washington
  • Updated: May 07, 2016 10:03 IST
The Punggye-ri test site in North Korea is seen in an image from Airbus Defence and Space and 38 North taken on May 5, 2016 and released on May 6, 2016. (Reuters)

North Korea may be preparing to carry out a fifth nuclear test in the near future judging by commercial satellite images of the country’s nuclear test site taken on May 5, a US think tank said on Friday.

The 38 North website, run by Johns Hopkins University’s School of Advanced International Studies, said the images showed vehicle movement at the site “not often seen there except during preparations for a test.”

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There has been intense speculation that communist North Korea may conduct its fifth test of a nuclear device during a congress of the ruling Workers’ Party now underway.

The analysis from 38 North said the imagery of the Punggye-ri test site “suggests that Pyongyang may be preparing for a nuclear test in the near future.”

The Punggye-ri test site in North Korea . (Reuters)

It said that while the images continued to show low levels of activity, the vehicles had been spotted at what was believed to be the Command Center, some 6 km (almost four miles) south of the main site.

A senior US official, asked about the 38 North report, repeated a call for North Korea “to refrain from actions and rhetoric that further destabilise the region” and stick to past commitments to denuclearize.

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“Our commitment to the defence of our allies, including the Republic of Korea and Japan, in the face of these threats, remains ironclad,” he added. “We are prepared to defend ourselves and our allies from any attack or provocation.”

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un speaks during the first congress of the country's ruling Workers' Party in 36 years on May 6, 2016. (Reuters)

The 38 North website reported last month that satellite images showed North Korea may have resumed tunnelling at Punggye-ri, activity similar to that seen before the country’s most recent nuclear test in January.

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The website reported in early December that satellite photographs from the two previous months indicated North Korea was digging a new tunnel for nuclear testing.

Image from Airbus Defense and Space and 38 North taken May 5, 2016 and released May 6, 2016. (REUTERS)

North Korea has vowed to conduct more nuclear testing in spite of stepped-up international sanctions after its previous test and a subsequent space rocket launch seen as a cover for development of its intercontinental ballistic missile program.

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North Korean leader Kim Jong Un on Friday hailed the recent nuclear test and launch of a satellite as he opened the first congress of the country’s ruling Workers’ Party in 36 years.

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