North Korea said to ready nuclear test as tensions climb

WASHINGTON — North Korea is ready to launch a nuclear test at its Punggye-ri Nuclear Test Site, the 38 North monitoring group reported on Wednesday

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 Center,” the North Korea-related analysis website said.

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.”

A woman walks past a television screen showing file footage of a North Korean missile launch, at a railway station in Seoul on April 5, 2017. (AFP Photo/Jung Yeon-Je)

Reuters reported that North Korea told foreign journalists Thursday to prepare for a “big and important event,” though it was not clear if the announcement was tied to the reported nuclear test or regional tensions.

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.

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