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North Korea nuclear test site on 'standby,' U.S. analysts say

By
Elizabeth Shim
North Korea’s nuclear test site is ready for Kim Jong Un’s directive, according to U.S. analysts. File Photo by How Hwee Young/EPA
North Korea’s nuclear test site is ready for Kim Jong Un’s directive, according to U.S. analysts. File Photo by How Hwee Young/EPA

June 14 (UPI) -- North Korea's nuclear test site at Punggye-ri is in "standby status" and the country could conduct its sixth nuclear test at any time, according to U.S. analysts.

Writing for 38 North, a Johns Hopkins University website dedicated to North Korea issues, analysts Frank V. Pabian, Joseph S. Bermudez, Jr., and Jack Liu write that while there is no "unusual observable activity," more tests are possible "any time the North Korean leadership makes the decision to conduct them."

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The analysts say satellite images tell a different story than reports of "intensified" activity at the North Korean nuclear test site.

The Asahi Shimbun quoted sources on Sunday who said preparations at Punggye-ri "match those of past occasions before North Korea conducted a nuclear test."

But Pabian, Bermudez and Liu said the North Portal of Punggye-ri shows "few signs of new activity other than water being drained from [the] portal," while there is "no discernible new spoil present on the spoil pile."

The area may also not be occupied by North Korean personnel who support nuclear testing work, as "clearly identifiable vehicles or personnel are not present in either the upper or lower courtyards in this area."

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But new construction continues south of the main area, and a roof is "nearly complete and fully covered with wood sheathing" for a "replacement support building."

The site is ready for a test, but the next action depends on Kim Jong Un's directive, according to the report.

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