North Korea’s nuclear test site ‘primed and ready’ as foreign media gather for ‘big event’
There is speculation that North Korea could be preparing a missile launch, or even another nuclear test to mark the 105th birthday anniversary of its founder Kim Il-sung on Saturday
North Korea is ready to conduct a nuclear test at its Punggye-ri Nuclear Test Site, the 38 North monitoring group reported as foreign journalists gathered in Pyongyang for “a big and important event”.
The 38 North analysis group described the test site as “primed and ready”.
“Commercial satellite imagery of North Korea’s Punggye-ri Nuclear Test Site from April 12 shows continued activity around the North Portal, new activity in the Main Administrative Area, and a few personnel around the site’s Command Centre,” the North Korea-related analysis website said.
Around 200 foreign journalists are in Pyongyang for North Korea’s biggest national day called “Day of the Sun”. Officials gave no details of the big event and similar announcements in the past have been linked to relatively low-key set pieces.
A barrage of recent North Korean missile tests has stoked US fears that Pyongyang may soon develop an intercontinental ballistic missile capable of delivering a nuclear warhead to the US mainland.
There is speculation that the country could be preparing a missile launch, or even another nuclear test - this would be its sixth - to mark the 105th birthday anniversary of its founder Kim Il-sung on Saturday.
The Voice of America said Wednesday night, quoting US government and other sources, that North Korea “has apparently placed a nuclear device in a tunnel and it could be detonated Saturday AM Korea time.”
However South Korean officials said on Thursday there were no new signs to indicate a North Korean nuclear is more imminent but said the North has maintained a state of readiness to conduct such a test at any time.
US President Donald Trump’s administration has been forceful in its warnings to Pyongyang that leave military options “on the table,” as Secretary of State Rex Tillerson has said.
The threat carries extra weight after the US strike on a Syrian air base last week.
“We are sending an armada. Very powerful,” Trump said Wednesday.
“We have submarines. Very powerful. Far more powerful than the aircraft carrier.”
He was referring to a strike group headed by the USS Carl Vinson supercarrier that has been re-routed to the Korean peninsula in a show of force against Kim.
The strike group, which deployed with about 6,500 sailors, is still some way south, conducting exercises with the Australian navy.
The US Navy already has a massive regional presence, including another carrier strike group headquartered at Yokosuka in Japan.
Trump and Chinese President Xi Jinping spoke by telephone on Wednesday, just days after they met in the United States for the first time, underscoring the sense of urgency given concerns that the North could soon conduct a weapons test.
Trump said on Twitter that his call with Xi was a “very good” discussion of the “menace of North Korea”. Trump said later on Wednesday the United States is prepared to tackle the crisis surrounding North Korea without China if necessary.
Had a very good call last night with the President of China concerning the menace of North Korea.
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) April 12, 2017
Xi stressed that China was “committed to the target of denuclearisation on the peninsula, safeguarding peace and stability on the peninsula, and advocates resolving problems through peaceful means”, Chinese state broadcaster CCTV said.
Agence France-Presse, Reuters