North Korea Nuclear Test Imminent? US Sends 'Nuke-Sniffer' To Japan

Cheryl Sanders
April 14, 2017

Trump said on Twitter his call with Xi was a "very good" discussion of the "menace of North Korea".

The 38 North analysis group described the test site as "primed and ready".

The US show of force, sending what Trump called an "armada" of military vessels towards the region, and North Korea's angry response, has raised fears of a military confrontation.

That includes movement around the north portal and in the main administrative area, as well as some personnel around the command center, according to the website run by the U.S. -Korea Institute at Johns Hopkins University's School of Advanced International Studies.

A Washington-based think-tank that monitors North Korea, 38 North, said satellite images on Wednesday showed activity around the North's Punggye-ri nuclear test site on the east coast that indicated it was ready for a new test.

Things are expected to come to a head on Saturday, when North Korea marks the 105th anniversary of the birth of state founder Kim il-Sung.

Though US officials insist that military options remain on the table, pre-emptive strikes on North Korea remain a last resort and they stressed that - for now, at least - the Trump administration is stressing economic and diplomatic measures.

A phone call between Trump and Chinese President Xi Jinping on Wednesday was meant to reinforce USA pressure on Beijing to curb Pyongyang's nuclear and ballistic missile programmes, a U.S. official said.

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.

"As soon as North Korea complies with China's declared advice and suspends nuclear activities ..."

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un has cut a ceremonial ribbon to mark the opening of a major new city development project in Pyongyang.

China - the North's sole major ally - has urged the U.S. president to take a peaceful approach to resolving the North Korean tensions.

Some analysts cautioned that targeting Chinese entities with so-called "secondary sanctions" could backfire and make Beijing less willing to cooperate, and that dealing with a country that already has nuclear weapons differs from dealing with one accused of trying acquire them.

"Watching the courageous combatants mercilessly blow up the enemy targets, he said with pleasure that the commanding officers made correct decisions, adding those combatants carrying out their duties independently and pro-actively were reminiscent of fierce tigers crossing the mountain ranges in the southern half", KCNA reported.

Last year, South Korean officials said the North tested an intermediate-range Musudan missile, but it failed.

The construction has gone on at breakneck speed, interrupted only by flooding in north-eastern North Korea last autumn, when resources where temporarily diverted to reconstruction of homes there.

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