Fears are mounting that North Korea will detonate a nuclear device on Saturday as a celebratory show of strength on the Day of the Sun, an annual holiday celebrated in the communist dictatorship on April 15.
According to several reports, North Korea may have moved a nuclear missile into a tunnel near the Punggye-ri nuclear test site in apparent preparation for a detonation, the U.S. government-funded news organization Voice of America reported on Wednesday.
“Commercial satellite imagery of North Korea’s Punggye-ri Nuclear Test Site from April 12 shows continued activity.”
“We have no comment, but we will be watching closely,” an unnamed official with the National Security Council told VOA.
Also on Tuesday, the 38 North website, a project of the U.S.-Korea Institute of the School of Advanced International Studies at Johns Hopkins University, reported increased activity around the Punggye-ri test site itself.
“Commercial satellite imagery of North Korea’s Punggye-ri Nuclear Test Site from April 12 shows continued activity around the North Portal, new activity in the Main Administrative Area, and a few personnel around the site’s command center,” 38 North reported.
The report detailed a flurry of activity at the site that observers say could indicate preparations for a nuclear test.
“At the North Portal, what appears to be a small vehicle or trailer is located immediately outside the entrance; the water flow out of the portal has diminished in the past 10 days; and what may be a small trailer is visible on the road south of the portal,” the report stated.
“The netting — suspended over probable equipment — south of the portal’s support building remains in place, and there has been no significant dumping of additional material on the portal’s spoil pile,” the report continues, before noting increased numbers of personnel moving around the main administrative area of the site.
The annual Day of the Sun holiday celebrates the birth of communist North Korea’s founder and first president, Kim Il-Sung. Kim Il-Sung’s birthday had long been a national holiday in North Korea, but the name of the observance was changed to Day of the Sun three years following his death.
The so-called Sun Festival typically sees colorful celebrations, fireworks, and, in typical North Korean fashion, displays of military power. This year’s festival is the 105th anniversary of Kim Il-Sung’s birth, and also comes as North Korea is closer to creating a functional intercontinental ballistic missile than ever before.
President Donald Trump recently ordered a Navy strike group to the region amid growing tensions between Washington and Pyongyang, and as the administration tries to put more pressure on the Chinese to handle their rogue neighbor.
“I have great confidence that China will properly deal with North Korea,” Trump tweeted Thursday morning. “If they are unable to do so, the U.S., with its allies, will!”