This picture released from North Korea's official Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) on September 20, 2016 shows North Korean leader Kim Jong-un (C) inspecting the ground jet test of a new type high-power engine of a carrier rocket for the Geo-stationary satellite at the Sohae Space Center in North Korea. (Via AFP)
A US-based monitoring group says Pyongyang could be preparing to conduct another major nuclear test soon, after detecting increased activities at North Korea’s known test site.
The research group run by John Hopkins University made the speculation Friday on the basis of satellite images showing an increase in nuclear activities at all three tunnel complexes of North Korea’s main launch site, known as North Portal.
According to the group, one possible reason for these activities could be collecting data on the previous test early last month, but it's more likely that Pyongyang is planning a new missile launch.
Experts speculate that the new test could be on two days -  October 9 and 10 - to mark the 10th anniversary of Pyongyang's first nuclear test and the 71st anniversary of the formation of the ruling Workers' Party.
A satellite image released by Johns Hopkins University that shows continuing activity across North Korea’s main test site.
Pyongyang has pledged to develop a nuclear arsenal to protect itself from the US military, which occasionally deploys nuclear-powered warships and aircraft capable of carrying atomic weapons in the Asia-Pacific region.
On September 9, North Korea conducted its fifth nuclear warhead explosion, saying it was meant to counter US hostility. In January, Pyongyang said it had successfully detonated a hydrogen bomb, and vowed to build up its nuclear program as deterrence against potential aggression from the US and its regional allies.
A month later, Pyongyang launched a long-range rocket, which it said placed an earth observation satellite into orbit. Washington and Seoul denounced it as a cover for an intercontinental ballistic missile test.
This undated file photo released by North Korea's official Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) on July 21, 2016 shows a missile fired during a drill by Hwasong artillery units of the Strategic Force of the Korean People's Army.
North Korea says it will not give up on its nuclear “deterrence” unless Washington ends its hostile policy toward Pyongyang and dissolves the US-led command in South Korea. Thousands of US soldiers are stationed in South Korea and Japan.
The UN and the West have so far imposed a raft of crippling sanctions on North Korea in an attempt to curb its nuclear and missile programs, but the measures instead, have prompted the country to further boost such activities.