Tensions high, N.Korea readies nuclear test: report

By AFP   April 13, 2017 | 04:38 pm GMT+7
Tensions high, N.Korea readies nuclear test: report
North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un (R) arrives flanked by vice-chairman of the State Affairs Commission Choe Yong-Hae (L) at an opening ceremony for 'Rymoyong street', a new housing development in Pyongyang. Photo by AFP/Ed Jones

There is speculation that the country could be preparing its sixth nuclear test to mark the 105th birthday anniversary of its founder Kim Il-Sung.

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 U.S. fears that Pyongyang may soon develop an intercontinental ballistic missile capable of delivering a nuclear warhead to the U.S. 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 U.S. 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."

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 U.S. 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 U.S. Navy already has a massive regional presence, including another carrier strike group headquartered at Yokosuka in Japan.