Five years after the last A-bomb tests, Kim Jong-un is preparing to detonate several more nuclear warheads, satellite images suggest.
Analysts say work on the mountain tunnel ready for testing has been completed and work on another tunnel is underway, which means more are planned.
Despite US promises to respond “quickly” to such threats, North Korean observers have warned that Kim could detonate a nuclear weapon at any time.
Satellite images show the Punggye-ri test site last Sunday, June 13th.
Ongoing reconstruction and preparation can be seen in Tunnel No. 3, according to a report by the Washington Think Tank Center for Strategic and International Studies Beyond Parallel.
The site is “apparently now complete and ready for the seventh nuclear test,” the authors say.
Analysts also saw new construction at Tunnel No. 4, which collapsed in 2018 after North Korea flew a kite at the site.
The report states: “The most recent image shows new indications of activity below the entrance to Tunnel No. 4, which strongly suggests an attempt to re-enable it for possible future testing.”
And he concludes: “The time for the seventh nuclear test is now in the hands of Kim Jong-un alone.”
It comes after South Korea signaled that the North’s ascetic regime was preparing for a second nuclear explosion.
Foreign Minister Park Geun-hye said there was “only a political decision left” by Kim Jong-un on whether to proceed.
He warned that the North would have to pay a heavy price if it went ahead with talks with Foreign Secretary Anthony Blinken in Washington.
Last week, US and South Korean diplomats called on Kim to make the “right decision.”
Park then said: “If North Korea conducts another nuclear test, I think it will only strengthen our resistance and international sanctions.
“North Korea must change its mind and make the right decision.”
Kim’s sixth and largest nuclear test took place in September 2017.
This triggered a 6.3 magnitude earthquake – ten times more powerful than any previous test.
North Korea claims it is a hydrogen bomb – which, if true, would take a cold leap beyond uranium fission warheads.
Experts doubt that the government has developed a real fusion bomb, but it could be a hybrid device that produces more energy than a conventional A-bomb.
North Korea has also claimed to have micro-assembled its nuclear equipment, a necessary step in launching a ballistic missile to fire at the United States.
Increasing risk of missiles
North Korea reacted angrily yesterday when the United States announced major war games at its door.
Japan and South Korea will join the Rim of the Pacific exercise involving warships, aircraft and thousands of troops.
The exercises, which will take place from June 29 to August 4, will involve 26 nations, 38 warships, four submarines, nine national ground forces, more than 170 aircraft and 25,000 troops.
The U.S. Navy has called it “the world’s largest international maritime exercise.”
This military will “use a wide range of capabilities and demonstrate the inherent resilience of the navy”.
South Korea, the United States and Japan are also planning missile warning exercises and ballistic missile search and tracking exercises in early August to counter North Korea’s growing air threats.
North Korea has accused the West of destabilizing the region and increasing the risk of military conflict.
Ri Myong-hak of the Government Disarmament and Peace Organization said: “Due to the aggressive and hegemonic Indo-Pacific strategy of the United States, the region is under constant threat of military conflict.
“In turn, this has a negative impact on the Korean Peninsula.
“The world needs to know who is the real culprit and is aware of the US military’s actions.”
Kim has launched more missiles so far this year than last year, warning Seoul and Washington of the danger.
Earlier this month, North Korea fired eight ballistic missiles from multiple locations simultaneously as Kim boasted that it had “shaken the world” with more rocket tests.
Analysts warn that Kim could speed up nuclear test plans to distract the North Korean population from the devastating Kovid eruption.