Prospects for a Fifth North Korean Nuclear Test

It takes a trained eye to spot the patterns in the grainy satellite images, but subtle changes like tire tracks and repositioned mine carts show renewed tunneling activity at the Punggye-ri nuclear test site. North Korea has restarted excavations. Though the evidence is far from conclusive, it does match activity patterns observed prior to North Korea’s four previous underground nuclear tests.

Pyongyang’s neighbors are not taking any chances. On Wednesday, April 20th, the Hong Kong based Center for Human Rights and Democracy revealed that the Chinese military had moved 2,000 more troops to its border with North Korea, mirroring similar movements by Beijing before earlier tests. South Korean president Park Geun Hye announced her administration’s belief that North Korea was preparing for a fifth test and ordered that the military be prepared for any provocations. United States Assistant Secretary of State for East Asian Affairs Daniel Russel stated that a fifth test would garner stricter sanctions from the U.S. and compel it and its allies to take unspecified “defensive measures.”

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