An undated picture released by the North Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) on 14 May 2014 shows North Korean leader Kim Jong-un (C) tours North Korean Air Force unit 447at an undisclosed location in North Korea. - EPA
SEOUL, May 14, 2014 (AFP) - Despite fears to the contrary, North Korea does not appear to be preparing an imminent nuclear test, a US think-tank said Wednesday in an analysis of recent satellite images of Pyongyang's main test site.
While the latest pictures dated May 9 do show high levels of activity at the Punggye-ri site, most of it seems to be of a mundane, routine nature that would not be consistent with an impending test, the US-Korea Institute at Johns Hopkins University said.
In an analysis posted on its closely-followed website 38North, the institute offered several scenarios, including the possibility that Pyongyang had been pushing towards a test but was warned off by its main ally and economic benefactor, China.
Based on available evidence... it appears that a nuclear test is not imminent," the analysis said.
"Indeed, given previous North Korean practices, one possible conclusion is that if the North is planning a test, it may still be weeks away," it added.
The international community has been on edge for a month after South Korea cited intelligence reports that the North was planning to conduct its fourth nuclear test - possibly to coincide with US President Barack Obama's visit to Seoul in April.
Subsequent satellite analysis by several think-tanks confirmed stepped-up activity at the Punggye-ri site, but most stopped short of predicting a detonation timeline.