North Korea is gearing up for its potential first nuclear weapons test since 2017, FT and other news agencies are reporting, which analysts say appears confirmed in a series of new satellite images.
"The commercial satellite images were collected this week and analyzed by experts from the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington," according to CSIS experts cited in FT. "They revealed the construction of buildings, movement of lumber and an increase in equipment and supplies immediately outside a new entrance to the Punggye-ri nuclear test site in the country’s north-east."
The report features the findings of CSIS authors who've issued the new study on Pyongyang's weapons testing which says, "Although some sources suggest the seventh nuclear test could occur between May and September of this year, the date of a seventh nuclear test will undoubtedly depend exclusively upon the personal decision of Kim Jong Un."
The study further finds that "Current satellite imagery indicates that preparations are well under way and should not be discounted as insignificant activity."
Simultaneously, Kim Jong Un has been ratcheting what's being viewed in the West as his public 'nuclear readiness' rhetoric, calling on the nation's military leaders "bolster up their strength in every way to annihilate the enemy" - according to the latest state media reporting Friday, which commented on a massive military parade in the capital early in the week.
This despite that Pyongyang has long touted a self-imposed moratorium on tests. At a major display of military hardware Monday, including some of the country's latest ICBMs on parade, Kim praised the military, describing the "modernity, heroism and radical development of the armed forces of the Republic and their matchless military and technological superiority."
North Korea broadcasted images of a vast military parade to celebrate the 90th anniversary of the founding of the country's army, showcasing leader Kim Jong Un's most powerful intercontinental ballistic missiles. pic.twitter.com/GTev8jqeBH— NoComment (@nocomment) April 26, 2022
According to the scene reported in state KCNA and summarized by Reuters:
Photos released by state media showed Kim perched on a white horse and wearing a white, military-style tunic with gold trim as he reviewed the troops.
Monday's parade had featured several of the North's latest missiles, including its largest intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM), the Hwasong-17, and a recently tested hypersonic missile.
State media further cited Kim as saying these advanced nuclear-capable weapons are for self-defense purposes and ultimately to safeguard the country's "fundamental interests".
#NorthKorea's state broadcaster shows images of a vast military parade for the founding anniversary of North Korea's armed forces#KimJongUn said at the parade the country will rapidly accelerate the development of its nuclear arsenal, state media reported pic.twitter.com/EXU1UBpcQv— 🅰🅻🅴🆁🆃 🅲🅷🅰🅽🅽🅴🅻 (@AlertChannel) April 26, 2022
This after last month Washington and its regional allies including Japan expressed alarm as North Korea resumed testing its largest ICBMs - also amid long stalled engagement with Washington which hasn't happened on any substantive level since the Trump administration.