US website: Images suggest NKorea preparing for nuke test

A woman is dwarfed as she walks past giant portraits of the late North Korean leaders Kim Il Sung, left, and Kim Jong Il at the Kim Il Sung Square Saturday, May 7, 2016 in Pyongyang, North Korea. North Korean leader Kim Jong Un hailed his country's recent nuclear test to uproarious applause as he convened the first full congress of its ruling party since 1980, an event intended to showcase the North's stability and unity in the face of tough international sanctions and deepening isolation. (AP Photo/Wong Maye-E)

WASHINGTON (AP) — North Korea may be preparing for a nuclear test in the near future, a U.S. website that monitors the isolated nation said Friday.

The website 38 North said commercial satellite imagery taken Thursday shows vehicles at a command center believed to control the underground explosions, which could be sign that a test is imminent.

The center lies nearly four miles from the test site at Punggye-ri. The website said the level of activity at the test site continues to be low, but vehicles are not often seen at the command center — except during test preparations.

Predicting North Korea’s nuclear tests is notoriously difficult. The last test, North Korea’s fourth since 2006, happened in January and was followed by a long-range rocket launch, drawing the toughest U.N. sanctions yet against Pyongyang.

On Friday, North Korea began a ruling party congress to cement the authority of its leader, Kim Jong Un.

South Korean officials say the North has finished preparations for a fifth nuclear test and it could happen any day.

A U.S. official said Friday the U.S. has seen activity at the site and wouldn’t be surprised if there was a test. The official, who was not authorized to comment publicly and requested anonymity, said the assessments have been mixed.

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