Images show possible preparations for N. Korea nuclear test

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North Korea may be preparing to carry out a fifth nuclear test in the near future judging by commercial satellite images of the country's nuclear test site taken on May 5, a U.S. think tank said on Friday.

The 38 North website, run by Johns Hopkins University's School of Advanced International Studies, said the images showed vehicle movement at the site "not often seen there except during preparations for a test."

There has been intense speculation that communist North Korea may conduct its fifth test of a nuclear device during a congress of the ruling Workers' Party now underway.

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Images show possible preparations for N. Korea nuclear test
The Punggye-ri test site in North Korea is seen in an image from Airbus Defense and Space and 38 North taken May 5, 2016 and released May 6, 2016. Includes material Pleiades copyright 2016 Distribution Airbus DS/Spot Image, all rights reserved/Handout via Reuters ATTENTION EDITORS - THIS IMAGE WAS PROVIDED BY A THIRD PARTY. EDITORIAL USE ONLY. NO RESALES. NO ARCHIVE. TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY
The Punggye-ri test site in North Korea is seen in an image from Airbus Defense and Space and 38 North taken May 5, 2016 and released May 6, 2016. Includes material Pleiades copyright 2016 Distribution Airbus DS/Spot Image, all rights reserved/Handout via Reuters ATTENTION EDITORS - THIS IMAGE WAS PROVIDED BY A THIRD PARTY. EDITORIAL USE ONLY. NO RESALES. NO ARCHIVE. TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY
The Punggye-ri test site in North Korea is seen in an image from Airbus Defense and Space and 38 North taken May 5, 2016 and released May 6, 2016. Includes material Pleiades copyright 2016 Distribution Airbus DS/Spot Image, all rights reserved/Handout via Reuters ATTENTION EDITORS - THIS IMAGE WAS PROVIDED BY A THIRD PARTY. EDITORIAL USE ONLY. NO RESALES. NO ARCHIVE.
The Punggye-ri test site in North Korea is seen in an image from Airbus Defense and Space and 38 North taken May 5, 2016 and released May 6, 2016. Includes material Pleiades copyright 2016 Distribution Airbus DS/Spot Image, all rights reserved/Handout via Reuters ATTENTION EDITORS - THIS IMAGE WAS PROVIDED BY A THIRD PARTY. EDITORIAL USE ONLY. NO RESALES. NO ARCHIVE.
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The analysis from 38 North said the imagery of the Punggye-ri test site "suggests that Pyongyang may be preparing for a nuclear test in the near future."

It said that while the images continued to show low levels of activity, the vehicles had been spotted at what was believed to be the Command Center, some 6 km (almost four miles) south of the main site.

Click through images of North Korea nuclear test:

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Images show possible preparations for N. Korea nuclear test
A TV screen shows North Korean leader Kim Jong Un at a shop in Tokyo, Wednesday, Jan. 6, 2016. North Korea said it conducted a powerful hydrogen bomb test Wednesday, a defiant and surprising move that, if confirmed, would be a huge jump in Pyongyang's quest to improve its still-limited nuclear arsenal. (AP Photo/Eugene Hoshiko)
Japan's U.N. Ambassador Motohide Yoshikawa speaks during a press conference after attending a Security Council meeting on North Korea, Wednesday, Jan. 6, 2016 at U.N. headquarters. North Korea trumpeted its first hydrogen bomb test Wednesday, a powerful, self-proclaimed "H-bomb of justice" that would mark a major and unanticipated advance for its still-limited nuclear arsenal. Pyongyang's announcement was met with widespread skepticism, but whatever the North detonated in its fourth nuclear test, another round of tough international sanctions looms for the defiant, impoverished country. (AP Photo/Bebeto Matthews)
United Kingdom's Deputy U.N. Ambassador Peter Wilson address the press before attending a Security Council meeting on North Korea, Wednesday, Jan. 6, 2016 at U.N. headquarters. North Korea trumpeted its first hydrogen bomb test Wednesday, a powerful, self-proclaimed "H-bomb of justice". The United Nations secretary-general is condemning North Koreaâs announcement of its latest nuclear test, calling it âprofoundly destabilizing for regional security.â (AP Photo/Bebeto Matthews)
Earthquake and Volcano of the Korea Meteorological Administration Director General Yun Won-tae stands in front of a screen showing seismic waves that were measured in South Korea, in Seoul Wednesday, Jan. 6, 2016. North Korea said it had conducted a powerful hydrogen bomb test Wednesday, a defiant and surprising move that, if confirmed, would be a huge jump in Pyongyang's quest to improve its still-limited nuclear arsenal. (AP Photo/Lee Jin-man)
A Chinese paramilitary policeman stands guard outside the North Korean Embassy in Beijing, Wednesday, Jan. 6, 2016. North Korea said it conducted a powerful hydrogen bomb test Wednesday, a defiant and surprising move that, if confirmed, would be a huge jump in Pyongyang's quest to improve its still-limited nuclear arsenal. (AP Photo/Andy Wong)
South Korean army soldiers patrol the barbed-wire fence in Paju, near the border with North Korea, South Korea, Wednesday, Jan. 6, 2016. North Korea said it conducted a powerful hydrogen bomb test Wednesday, a defiant and surprising move that, if confirmed, would be a huge jump in Pyongyang's quest to improve its still-limited nuclear arsenal.(AP Photo/Ahn Young-joon)
South Korean army soldiers patrol by the barbed-wire fence in Paju, near the border with North Korea, South Korea, Wednesday, Jan. 6, 2016. North Korea said it conducted a powerful hydrogen bomb test Wednesday, a defiant and surprising move that, if confirmed, would be a huge jump in Pyongyang's quest to improve its still-limited nuclear arsenal. (AP Photo/Ahn Young-joon)
Chinese paramilitary policemen stand guard outside the North Korean Embassy in Beijing, Wednesday, Jan. 6, 2016. North Korea said it conducted a powerful hydrogen bomb test Wednesday, a defiant and surprising move that, if confirmed, would be a huge jump in Pyongyang's quest to improve its still-limited nuclear arsenal. (AP Photo/Andy Wong)
Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying speaks during a briefing at the Chinese Foreign Ministry in Beijing, China, Wednesday, Jan. 6, 2016. North Korea's main ally China said it "firmly opposes" Pyongyang's purported hydrogen bomb test and is monitoring the environment along its border with the North near the test site. (AP Photo/Ng Han Guan)
North Koreans watch a news broadcast on a video screen outside Pyongyang Railway Station in Pyongyang, North Korea, Wednesday, Jan. 6, 2016. North Korea said Wednesday it had conducted a hydrogen bomb test, a defiant and surprising move that, if confirmed, would put Pyongyang a big step closer toward improving its still-limited nuclear arsenal. (AP Photo/Kim Kwang Hyon)
A North Korean national flag flutters in the wind on the roof of its embassy in Beijing, Wednesday, Jan. 6, 2016. North Korea said it conducted a powerful hydrogen bomb test Wednesday, a defiant and surprising move that, if confirmed, would be a huge jump in Pyongyang's quest to improve its still-limited nuclear arsenal. (AP Photo/Andy Wong)
People watch a TV news program showing North Korea's announcement, at the Seoul Railway Station in Seoul, South Korea, Wednesday, Jan. 6, 2016. North Korea said Wednesday it had conducted a hydrogen bomb test, a defiant and surprising move that, if confirmed, would put Pyongyang a big step closer toward improving its still-limited nuclear arsenal. The letters read " Will not use nuclear weapon if autonomy secured." (AP Photo/Ahn Young-joon)
People watch a TV screen showing the news reporting about an earthquake near North Korea's nuclear facility at the Seoul Railway Station in Seoul, South Korea, Wednesday, Jan. 6, 2016. North Korea said Wednesday it had conducted a hydrogen bomb test, a defiant and surprising move that, if confirmed, would put Pyongyang a big step closer toward improving its still-limited nuclear arsenal. The letters read: " North Korea's nuclear test." (AP Photo/Ahn Young-joon)
A TV screen shows North Korean leader Kim Jong Un at an electronics store in Tokyo, Wednesday, Jan. 6, 2016. North Korea said Wednesday it had conducted a hydrogen bomb test, a defiant and surprising move that, if confirmed, would put Pyongyang a big step closer toward improving its still-limited nuclear arsenal. (AP Photo/Shizuo Kambayashi)
People walk by a screen showing the news reporting about an earthquake near North Korea's nuclear facility, in Seoul, South Korea, Wednesday, Jan. 6, 2016. South Korean officials detected an "artificial earthquake" near North Korea's main nuclear test site Wednesday, a strong indication that nuclear-armed Pyongyang had conducted its fourth atomic test. North Korea said it planned an "important announcement" later Wednesday. The letter read "5.1 Earthquake near North Korea's nuclear facility." (AP Photo/Lee Jin-man)
North Koreans watch a news broadcast on a video screen outside Pyongyang Railway Station in Pyongyang, North Korea, Wednesday, Jan. 6, 2016. North Korea said Wednesday it had conducted a hydrogen bomb test, a defiant and surprising move that, if confirmed, would put Pyongyang a big step closer toward improving its still-limited nuclear arsenal. (AP Photo/Kim Kwang Hyon)
Uruguay's U.N. Ambassador and current Security Council president Elbio Rosselli speaks during a press conference after a closed Security Council meeting on North Korea, Wednesday, Jan. 6, 2016, at U.N. headquarters. North Korea trumpeted its first hydrogen bomb test Wednesday, a powerful, self-proclaimed "H-bomb of justice" that would mark a major and unanticipated advance for its still-limited nuclear arsenal. Pyongyang's announcement was met with widespread skepticism, but whatever the North detonated in its fourth nuclear test, another round of tough international sanctions looms for the defiant, impoverished country. (AP Photo/Bebeto Matthews)
South Korean army soldiers patrol by ribbons, wishing for the reunification of the two Koreas, attached on the barbed-wire fence in Paju, near the border with North Korea, South Korea, Wednesday, Jan. 6, 2016. North Korea said it conducted a powerful hydrogen bomb test Wednesday, a defiant and surprising move that, if confirmed, would be a huge jump in Pyongyang's quest to improve its still-limited nuclear arsenal. (AP Photo/Ahn Young-joon)
Map locates North Korea's nuclear facilities and recent test site.; 2c x 4 inches; 96.3 mm x 101 mm;
Officers from the Korea Meteorological Administration point at the epicenter of seismic waves in North Korea, at the National Earthquake and Volcano Center of the Korea Meteorological Administration in Seoul, South Korea, Wednesday, Jan. 6, 2016. North Korea said it conducted a powerful hydrogen bomb test Wednesday, a defiant and surprising move that, if confirmed, would be a huge jump in Pyongyang's quest to improve its still-limited nuclear arsenal. (AP Photo/Lee Jin-man)
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A senior U.S. official, asked about the 38 North report, repeated a call for North Korea "to refrain from actions and rhetoric that further destabilize the region" and stick to past commitments to denuclearize.

"Our commitment to the defense of our allies, including the Republic of Korea and Japan, in the face of these threats, remains ironclad," he added. "We are prepared to defend ourselves and our allies from any attack or provocation."

The 38 North website reported last month that satellite images showed North Korea may have resumed tunneling at Punggye-ri, activity similar to that seen before the country's most recent nuclear test in January.

The website reported in early December that satellite photographs from the two previous months indicated North Korea was digging a new tunnel for nuclear testing.

North Korea has vowed to conduct more nuclear testing in spite of stepped-up international sanctions after its previous test and a subsequent space rocket launch seen as a cover for development of its intercontinental ballistic missile program.

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un on Friday hailed the recent nuclear test and launch of a satellite as he opened the first congress of the country's ruling Workers' Party in 36 years.

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