Satellite images show activity at North Korea nuclear test site

United States Ambassador to the United Nations Samantha Power at the truce village of Panmunjom on Oct. 9 2016

"We have crossed a line here", said Bradley Babson, former World Bank adviser and chair of the DPRK Economic Forum at the U.S. -Korea Institute at the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies.

US-based monitoring group 38 North said satellites had recorded on-going activity at Punggye-ri - North Korea's main nuclear test site.

Activity at the North Portal, the site of the last test, could be taking place for a number of reasons: data collection, shutdown or preparations for a sixth test, according to Liu. "It is unclear if this activity is test related although this area may be fully capable of supporting a test since excavation stopped in 2012", 38 North said.

It comes as satellite images suggest the authoritarian state could be gearing up for another nuclear weapons test.

On October 1, during a ceremony for Armed Forces Day, Park declared, "Here in the Republic of Korea, we will inform North Koreans of the truth so that we can end the provocations of the North Korea regime and its anti-humanitarian rule, and we will do our best to enable all North Koreans to pursue happiness and to have lives of human dignity".

North Korean ruler Kim Jong Un claimed during his country's historic Workers' Party Congress in May that he won't use nuclear weapons unless his nation's sovereignty is under attack. In addition, the level of sanctions in response to Pyongyang's fifth nuclear test in September is expected to surpass that of UNSC Resolution 2270 declared in March.

The United States and South Korea will "pay the price" if they deploy an advanced US anti-missile battery on the divided peninsula, China's official media warned.

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The North is believed to be ready to conduct another test as soon as the order is given, and has previously chosen dates to coincide with significant political anniversaries.

In the past, North Korea has been blamed for attacks ranging from defence contractors to an online shopping site resulting in the loss of 10 million customers' details.

But the North's weapons programme has progressed in leaps and bounds since then - despite rounds of increasingly tough worldwide sanctions - and has notably accelerated under current leader Kim Jong-Un. That appears to show growing frustration China feels about the recalcitrant neighbor in the wake of Pyongyang's fifth nuclear test last month. It would be based in the USA because South Korea's constitution includes the North in its territory.

North Korea announced last month that it has successfully tested a purported engine for a satellite-launching rocket, and Kim ordered quick preparations for a launch.

As the worldwide community tries to formulate a harsh response to last month's nuclear test, Pyongyang is likely to continue to hone its technology, experts say.

North Korea is one of the most hard national security challenges the next president will face, according to Central Intelligence Agency director John Brennan.

Gordon Chang, an author and columnist who writes extensively on China, said there has been growing frustration within the USA government over illicit trade between China and its ally.

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