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North Korea may be about to test another nuclear weapon, analysts say

By Elizabeth Shim
North Korea may be about to test another nuclear weapon, analysts say
Kim Jong Un inspecting North Korea’s air force in March 2015. North Korea’s Punggye-ri nuclear site showed little sign of activity, according to May 2 satellite imagery. File Photo by Rodong Sinmun

SEOUL, May 5 (UPI) -- Low activity at the Punggye-ri nuclear site may indicate that North Korea is about to conduct its fifth nuclear test, analysts say.

On 38 North, a Johns Hopkins University website dedicated to North Korea issues, analysts Jack Liu and Joseph S. Bermudez, Jr., write that the low levels of movement at the site could either mean all preparations for a test are complete or that Pyongyang is engaging in "normal maintenance work."

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The most recent satellite imagery from May 2, according to Liu and Bermudez, showed a "small crate or trailer" had been placed outside the North Portal of the nuclear test site.

Other small objects could be seen in the middle of the road outside the portal, they wrote, although rather than being objects they could be "anomalies in the road surface itself."

The analysts added that a small vehicle could be seen on the west side of a "large courtyard," but the findings are inconclusive, according to their survey.

Analysts in the United States and South Korea have said it's likely a test could be conducted ahead of Pyongyang's Seventh Party Congress, which is to be held Friday.

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But Seoul's Defense Ministry has said Pyongyang could decide on the test after first taking into consideration the impact of additional sanctions.

North Korea is already under heavy trade embargoes, and U.N. member countries have shown signs of complying with Resolution 2270.

North Korea could also engage in other provocations at a disputed maritime border with the South, according to Defense Minister Han Min-koo.

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