SEOUL Oct 7 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, citing satellite images.
The 38 North group, run by Johns Hopkins University's School
of Advanced International Studies, said there was 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, referring to the last nuclear test.
The North is believed to be ready for another nuclear test
at any time and there has been speculation it could mark the
Oct. 10 anniversary of the founding of its Workers' Party with
another underground detonation.
North Korea conducted its first nuclear test in 2006 and has
since then defied U.N. sanctions and rejected international
talks to press ahead with the development of the weapons and
missiles to carry them, which it says it needs for its defence.
In January, it conducted its fourth nuclear test and last
month its fifth and biggest, on the anniversary of the nation's
The United States and South Korea are pushing for tighter
sanctions against North Korea by closing loopholes left in a
U.N. Security Council resolution in March.
South Korea's Unification Ministry spokesman Jeong Joon-hee
told a briefing there were no particular indication of a plan
for a nuclear test timed to coincide with the Oct. 10
South Korea's Yonhap news agency cited an unidentified
government official that there was activity at the North's
rocket launch station near the west coast that could be
preparations for a long-range missile launch.
Last month, the North said it had successfully conducted a
ground test of a new rocket engine that would be used to launch
satellites. South Korea said the engine could be used for a
North Korea last month fired three missiles that flew about
1,000 km (600 miles). In August, it tested a submarine-launched
ballistic missile that international experts said showed
Japan said the possibility of further "provocative action"
by North Korea could not be ruled out.
"The government is taking all possible measures in gathering
information, exercising vigilance and taking surveillance
activities to be able to respond to any situations," Japan's
Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga told a news conference.
(Reporting by Jack Kim and Ju-min Park; Editing by Robert