North Korea May Be Unready for Nuclear Test During Obama Trip

Global Security Newswire Staff
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Global Security Newswire Staff
April 23, 2014, 6:41 a.m.

New satel­lite im­ages sug­gest North Korea would not be ready to con­duct a nuc­le­ar test be­fore U.S. Pres­id­ent Obama leaves the re­gion this week.

Space-based sur­veil­lance pho­to­graphs taken as re­cently as April 19 show an up­tick in activ­ity at the North’s Punggye-ri test­ing grounds com­pared to early March, ac­cord­ing to a Tues­day ana­lys­is by the ex­pert web­site 38 North. That has led to some me­dia con­jec­ture that Py­ongy­ang in­tends to carry out its fourth atom­ic test while Obama vis­its South Korea on Fri­day and Sat­urday.

The 38 North ana­lys­is ac­know­ledges “that may be pos­sible but ap­pears un­likely,” based on a read­ing of the com­mer­cial satel­lite im­ages and takeaways from pre­vi­ous atom­ic det­on­a­tions by the North.

“Re­cent op­er­a­tions at Punggye-ri have not reached the high level of in­tens­ity — in terms of  vehicle, per­son­nel and equip­ment move­ment — that oc­curred in the weeks pri­or to past det­on­a­tions,” said 38 North, which is a pro­ject of the U.S.-Korea In­sti­tute at Johns Hop­kins Uni­versity. “Moreover, oth­er pos­sible in­dic­at­ors … such as com­mu­nic­a­tions vans and a satel­lite dish in­ten­ded to trans­mit pre-test data, have not been spot­ted.”

Ac­cord­ing to the ana­lys­is, there is a chance the in­creased activ­ity is re­lated to main­ten­ance work made pos­sible by im­proved weath­er con­di­tions.

Py­ongy­ang has re­peated threats in re­cent weeks that it is pre­pared to carry out a “new” kind of nuc­le­ar test, which might al­lude to a dif­fer­ent form of device or mul­tiple tri­al blasts.

South Korean Pres­id­ent Park Geun-hye, in a Wed­nes­day phone con­ver­sa­tion with Chinese Pres­id­ent Xi Jin­ping, urged him to work harder to per­suade Py­ongy­ang not to carry out an­oth­er nuc­le­ar test,  Agence France-Presse re­por­ted.

However, the Kim Jong Un re­gime on Wed­nes­day blas­ted Park’s lob­by­ing ef­forts, the Yon­hap News Agency re­por­ted.

Seoul “should not even dream that we will be coaxed in­to lay­ing down our nuc­le­ar” weapon ef­forts by words alone, Py­ongy­ang’s Com­mit­tee for the Peace­ful Re­uni­fic­a­tion of Korea said in a state­ment.

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