by Staff Writers
Seoul (AFP) March 19, 2016
North Korea could carry out another nuclear test at any time, a US think tank has suggested, after analysing satellite imagery from Pyongyang's main testing site.
Activity at the Punggye-ri underground facility suggested the North was maintaining tunnels as well as cleaning up after its internationally condemned detonation in January, the US-Korea Institute at Johns Hopkins University said on Friday.
"It is highly likely that (the) site is capable of supporting additional tests at any time," it said on its closely watched 38North website.
Satellite images taken this month supported theories that there were unused test chambers at the site and showed activity around the main support area, with numerous vehicle tracks and footpaths visible, it said.
At one entrance to the test tunnels, snow had been cleared, indicating that they were at the very least being maintained for future tests, the think tank said.
North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un has ordered an imminent nuclear warhead explosion test and multiple ballistic missile launches, Pyongyang's state media said this week, ratcheting up Pyongyang's face-off with the international community just days after being slapped with tough UN sanctions.
The North carried out its fourth nuclear test on January 6, followed a month later by a long-range rocket launch, apparently a disguised ballistic missile test.
US calls N.Korea missile tests 'flagrant' UN violation
The United States called for consultations after North Korea test-fired two medium-range ballistic missiles that US Ambassador Samantha Power said showed Pyongyang's defiance of the Security Council.
"In further defiance, North Korea last night carried out additional launches using proscribed ballistic missile technology -- flagrant violations that the Security Council will hold urgent consultations to discuss," Power told an event on North Korean women held at the US mission.
Two weeks ago, the Security Council imposed its toughest sanctions on North Korea to date after Pyongyang carried out its fourth nuclear test and fired a rocket that was widely seen as a disguised ballistic missile test.
Japan's UN Ambassador Motohide Yoshikawa called the latest missile launches "very, very unfortunate."
"We hope the Security Council will be united to tell the DPRK" to change its policy, he said.
The 15-member council was expected to agree on a statement condemning the latest launches during its closed-door meeting later Friday, diplomats said.
British Deputy UN Ambassador Peter Wilson said "this is exactly the sort of thing that they should not be doing."
"What we see yet again is the North Koreans defying the will of the international community and the Security Council," he said.
UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said the firing of the two missiles was "deeply troubling" and urged Pyongyang to halt "these inflammatory and escalatory actions," his spokesman said.
Ban called on North Korea to comply with UN resolutions that bar the country from developing missile technology.
During her remarks, Power took an apparent swipe at China, saying it would be "absurd" to disassociate North Korea's dismal rights situation from its military ambitions.
China has opposed discussion in the Security Council of North Korea's rights record, arguing that the forum for this was the Human Rights Council in Geneva.
"Many of North Korea's systematic human rights violations deliberately underwrite the government's nuclear program, including the forced labor carried out by tens of thousands of women and children," said Power.
South Korean military officials said the first missile was launched from Sukchon in the country's southwest at 2055 GMT Thursday and the second about 20 minutes later.
North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un this week ordered multiple ballistic missile launches and a nuclear warhead test.
The launches came a day after US President Barack Obama signed an order implementing tough sanctions that were outlined in the recent UN sanctions resolution, as well as fresh unilateral US measures.
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