Posted at: 01/25/2013 10:26 AM
Updated at: 01/25/2013 12:06 PM
WASHINGTON (AP) - A U.S. research institute says recent satellite photos show North Korea could be almost ready to carry out its threat to conduct a nuclear test.
The images of the Punggye-ri site, where nuclear tests were conducted in 2006 and 2009, reveal that over the past month, roads have been kept clear of snow and possible steps taken to seal the tunnel into a mountainside where a nuclear device would be detonated.
But it remains difficult to discern North Korea's true intentions, as a test would be conducted underground.
The analysis was provided to The Associated Press Friday by 38 North, the website of the U.S.-Korea Institute at Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies. The latest image was taken Wednesday.
Pyongyang declared its plans Thursday.
What's the threat? North Korean rhetoric, reality
According to its official statements, North Korea is ready to go to the brink. But how serious are Pyongyang's threats?
This week, new U.N. sanctions in response to the North's successful December rocket launch elicited a furious response from Pyongyang: strong hints a third nuclear test is coming, along with bigger and better long-range missiles and "all-out action" against its "sworn enemy," the United States.
In the face of international condemnation, North Korea can usually be counted on for such flights of rhetorical pique. If the past is any indication, its threats of war are overblown. But the chances it will conduct another nuclear test are high. And it is gaining ground in its missile program, experts say, though still a long way from seriously threatening the U.S. mainland.
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