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North Korea not prepared for rocket launch but nuclear site showing activity

By
Elizabeth Shim
A Chinese man looks at photos of North Korea's leaders posted outside the North Korean embassy in Beijing. North Korea is unlikely to carry out new tests ahead of the U.S. presidential elections, according to a U.S. analyst. Photo by Stephen Shaver/UPI
A Chinese man looks at photos of North Korea's leaders posted outside the North Korean embassy in Beijing. North Korea is unlikely to carry out new tests ahead of the U.S. presidential elections, according to a U.S. analyst. Photo by Stephen Shaver/UPI | License Photo

SEOUL, Nov. 4 (UPI) -- North Korea could be getting ready to conduct another nuclear test but is less likely to launch a long-range missile.

Writing for 38 North, a Johns Hopkins University website dedicated to North Korea issues, analyst Jack Liu says evidence from satellite images indicate both the Punggye-ri nuclear test site and the Sohae Satellite Launching Station are not quite showing signs of a looming test.

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Punggye-ri is displaying signs of activity at the North Portal, the site of Pyongyang's Sept. 9 nuclear test, but the purpose of the activity "remains unclear," Liu writes.

Reasons for the work include post-test data collection to closing the portal in preparation for North Korea's next nuclear test.

Imagery shows mining carts and movement of material that is either "crushed rock or sand" that could be used to seal the tunnel, according to the analysis.

Liu added North Korea could still try to conduct tests at the West and South Portals.

"North Korea could possibly conduct another test at these sites with little notice," the analyst writes.

The Sohae Satellite Launching Station, meanwhile, has shown very little activity indicating another North Korea rocket test.

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Pyongyang fired an earth-observation satellite from the site in February.

According to Liu, the launch pad appears to be clear, and other movements suggest either a preparation for another engine test or a cleaning after the previous test.

The site has remained largely inactive in October, the analyst states.

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