China has deployed 2,000 troops along its border with North Korea, amid speculations that Pyongyang could be bracing for a fifth nuclear test, a report says.
Newsis News Agency in South Korea, citing the Information Center for Human Rights and Democracy (ICHRD), said on Wednesday that Beijing has dispatched 2,000 soldiers along its border with North Korea, adding that more Chinese military personnel have been stationed at major observation posts to act as lookouts 24 hours a day.
Some of the troops are responsible for measuring the radioactive material that could be emitted in the event of a North Korean nuclear test, the ICHRD said.
A US website monitoring North Korea said on Wednesday that satellite images show North Korea may have resumed tunnel excavation at its main nuclear test site, similar to activity seen before the country’s most recent nuclear test in January.
“The presence of the two carts… and the absence of any notable changes in the spoil pile suggests that tunnel excavation operations are about to resume, or have recently resumed, for the first time this year,” the report by 38 North said.
The report said the images also showed limited movement of vehicles and equipment at the site’s North Portal, where the past three North Korean nuclear tests took place.
“These activities by themselves do not establish that test preparations are imminent. However, the possibility of an impending test cannot be ruled out,” the report added.
“Pyongyang has clearly demonstrated, with its fourth nuclear detonation this past January, the ability to conduct detonations on short notice while masking indicators of its preparations from satellite view,” it said.
In January, China reportedly sent 3,000 soldiers to its northeastern region after Pyongyang announced a “successful” hydrogen bomb test.
North Korea declared itself a nuclear power in 2005 and carried out four nuclear weapons tests — in 2006, 2009, 2013 and 2016. It also launched a long-range rocket February this year, which Pyongyang said was aimed at placing an earth observation satellite into orbit. However, the US and South Korea denounced the move as a cover for an intercontinental ballistic missile test.
North Korea says it is strengthening its defense capabilities to protect itself against hostile countries, including the US.
The East Asian country has been targeted with international sanctions over its nuclear and missile activities. Back in March, the United Nations Security Council unanimously approved the toughest sanctions on Pyongyang in two decades.