After almost eight weeks of elevated activity, North Korea's nuclear test site has been put on "stand-by" with personnel being allowed some downtime for recreation like volleyball games, according to 38 North, the website of a US research institute.
That could be a tactical pause as part of an "overall deception plan" as North Korea is aware of when satellites will fly overhead, 38 North said.
Such practices were seen in the past. In December 2012, North Korea reported a technical problem after a rocket was loaded onto the launch pad and then proceeded to launch it the next day, said the website well known for precise analysis of Pyongyang's nuclear and missile activities.
"Since the North Koreans are aware of when commercial satellites will fly overhead, the presence of personnel at play (with what looks like the normal six players on each side) may be a way of signaling that a decision has been made to place the test on hold," it said.
Pyongyang has initiated a tactical pause in activity at the test site as part of an overall deception plan, delaying the sixth test until a time when a detonation would achieve the greatest political advantage, 38 North said.
Regardless, satellite imagery continues to indicate that the Punggye-ri test site appears able to conduct a nuclear test "at any time once the order is received from Pyongyang", it said.
Lim Chang-won = cwlim34ajunews.com