SEOUL (AFP) - Recent satellite images suggest North Korea is unlikely to follow through on a threatened nuclear test any time soon, a United States think-tank said on Thursday.
Pyongyang had raised the possibility of what would be the reclusive nation's fourth test in response to a United Nations resolution condemning its human rights record.
But the US-Korea Institute at Johns Hopkins University said analysis of recent satellite pictures of the Punggye-ri nuclear test site revealed no preparatory signs for a detonation. "Based on the low-level of activity ... it is unlikely that North Korea will conduct a nuclear test in the next two to three months," the institute said on its closely-followed 38 North website.
It noted that preparations for the last test in February 2013 had been visible for several months in advance. While recent images do show work at Punggye-ri, it "appears focused on maintaining facilities ... and an overall state of preparedness for the future", the institute said.
The North threatened a nuclear test last month after the adoption of a UN resolution that encouraged the Security Council to refer Pyongyang to the International Criminal Court for possible charges of crimes against humanity.
The resolution drew heavily on the work of a UN inquiry which concluded that North Korea was committing human rights abuses "without parallel in the contemporary world". North Korea has been known to "double-down" in response to UN pressure before.
The 2013 test was partly a response to a UN tightening of sanctions following a successful space rocket launch a few months before.