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North Korea Preparing For Nuke Test, Think Tank Claims (Photos)

| by Denise Recalde

North Korea is preparing for a sixth nuclear weapons test with the launch site "primed and ready," a think tank claims. 

A Washington-based think tank that keeps a close eye on the country, 38 North, points to satellite images taken on April 12 that indicate increased activity around the Punggye-ri nuclear test site on the country's east coast means an upcoming nuclear weapons test is likely. 

38 North said it saw "unusually high levels of activity" at the test site in recent weeks, Daily Mail reports. 

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State sources told the government-funded Voice of America the North Korean regime had placed a nuclear device in a tunnel at Punggye-ri. 

South Korean officials, in turn, say they have not picked up on new signs indicating their northern neighbor will likely perform a nuclear test, but clarified the country is in a state of perpetual readiness to undertake such a test at any time, reports the Independent.

North Korea, for its part, told a group of 200 foreign journalists in the country to prepare for an "important" event as regional tensions continue to roil. 

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The "important" event may have been the unveiling of a large housing project in Pyongyang. 

The journalists are in North Korea to observe the country's celebration of the Day of the Sun on April 15, the birth anniversary of the country's founder, Kim Il Sung. 

Some outsiders fear the North Korean regime will choose to mark the date by performing a nuclear test.

In 2012, the regime attempted to mark the date by launching a long-range rocket, but failed. In 2016, it tested a newly developed intermediate-range missile. 

Tensions in the region were heightened in recent days when a U.S. aircraft carrier strike group made its way into the area. 

Of the move, in an interview with Fox Business Network, President Donald Trump said: "We are sending an armada. Very powerful. We have submarines. Very powerful. Far more powerful than the aircraft carrier. That I can tell you." 

North Korea's sole major ally, China, has taken note of the sharp rise in rhetoric between Washington and Pyongyang, and called for a peaceful resolution. It said it would boost its protection of North Korea should the internationally isolated state drop its nuclear program. 

Trump and Chinese Prime Minister Xi Jinping spoke about North Korea during the Chinese leader's recent visit to the U.S.

While Trump has openly stated he will not stand for provocative actions by North Korea, U.S. officials say his administration is instead focusing its strategy on tighter economic sanctions. 

Sources: Voice of America, Independent, Daily Mail / Photo credit: Kok Leng Yeo/Wikimedia Commons

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