North Korea could need a number of weeks to make ready for another nuclear test, the Yonhap News Agency reported on Wednesday.
Pyongyang last week conducted its first nuclear test in nearly four years and there is serious concern the pariah nation intends to carry out a follow-up underground atomic blast.
"After the latest test, the North seems to be carefully checking the condition of the tunnel used under Mt. Mantap at the Punggye-ri test complex," an anonymous envoy in Beijing said, continuing that the assessment of the detonation chamber suggest it will be weeks before another blast can be carried out.
"Whether the North conducts more tests is a matter of political deliberation," the source said. Pyongyang might hold off until the U.N. Security Council has formally responded to the test, according to another issue expert.
It is not yet apparent whether the high degree of movement around Punggye-ri is typical so soon after the Feb. 12 test or if it is a sign of the Stalinist regime's plans to detonate another device, according to a Wednesday analysis by the expert website 38 North.
After examining satellite photographs taken on Feb. 13 and 15, experts Jack Liu and Nick Hansen stated, "If a second tunnel at the northern area (West Portal) was used to conduct the third nuclear detonation as some suspect, and this is not yet proven, then the southern tunnel would be readily available for a fourth test."
"Moreover there is no evidence that a tunnel entrance was breached by the blast, consistent with the reports of no detectable radiation released after the test," they stated.
Given the apparent success of last week's nuclear test, international concerns are rising that North Korea might look to capitalize on its expensive investment in atomic weapons technology and proliferate the know-how and materials to other outlier countries and nonstate actors, according to Agence France-Presse.
There is the additional worry that North Korea's growing nuclear and missile clout could spur its neighbors to pursue their own strategic deterrents.
South Korea on Tuesday began a six-day maritime drill aimed at demonstrating its military prowess to the North, AFP separately reported. The exercise includes U.S. reconnaissance aircraft and South Korean navy ships and submarines. It will involve practice maneuvers aimed at detecting and monitoring North Korean missiles and submersibles, according to the Defense Ministry.
The North, meanwhile, has posted online a new video showing flames over images of President Obama and U.S. troops, the Associated Press reported. It follows the recent release of a video portraying a missile strike on New York City.