The assessment of Pyongyang’s intention to detonate a nuclear device dovetails with South Korean intelligence reports and the announcement by Moscow that it has put its military forces in the Russian Far East at a heightened state of alert.
A report in the South Korean JoongAng Ilbo newspaper on Monday also said the test will be of a highly enriched uranium device. The two previous tests by North Korea, in October 2006 and May 2009, were of plutonium weapons.
Satellite reconnaissance images of the Punggye-ri nuclear test site indicate that work on a new underground shaft has been completed and that more than 280,000 cubic feet of rubble has been excavated.
Analysts say a successful nuclear test would go some way to rebuilding the international “face” that the regime lost on April 13, when a rocket that North Korea claimed was carrying a satellite crashed just moments after launch. The United Nations Security Council condemned the launch, which most member states agreed was a test of a ballistic missile.
On Wednesday, a senior official in the North Korean warned that the regime has developed “powerful modern weapons” and that it does not fear the “imperialists” in the United States.