An increase in activity at North Korea's nuclear test site could signal preparations for a new test or a collection of data from its last one, a U.S.-based monitoring group said on Friday.
The 38 North group, run by Johns Hopkins University's School of Advanced International Studies, said satellite images showed activity at all three tunnel complexes at the Punggye-ri nuclear test site involving a large vehicle and personnel.
“One possible reason for this activity is to collect data on the Sept. 9 test, although other purposes cannot be ruled out, such as sealing the portal or other preparations related to a new test,” the group said.
North Korea conducted its fifth and biggest nuclear test on Sept. 9 and South Korea has said it believes the north is ready to conduct another nuclear test at any time. There has been speculation that Pyongyang could mark the Oct. 10 anniversary of the founding of its Workers' Party with a sixth detonation.
A study published on Friday by a U.S.-based North Korea research project said North Korean missile and nuclear tests, and other major “provocations”, had clustered increasingly closer to U.S. elections.
The study from Washington's Center for Strategic and International Studies said the pattern based on looking at 30 U.S. elections since 1956 suggested a North Korean action as early as a month before the Nov. 8 U.S. presidential election.
This could mean a test coinciding with the Oct.10 anniversary. The trend also suggested the possibility of an act during the December transition period for the next U.S. administration.
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