Images show North Koreans playing volleyball at nuclear test site

Images show North Koreans playing volleyball at nuclear test site

North Korea's nuclear test site has been preoccupied with volleyball, not missiles, according to satellite images released on Wednesday that showed three games being played in different places around what's become an worldwide center of attention. This could mean that the tunnel has been completely sealed or that the North may have installed drainage pipes instead of using open ditches.

"It suggests that the facility might be going into a standby mode", said Joseph Bermudez, a veteran North Korea analyst, during a conference call organized by the John Hopkins University think tank 38 North, the New York Times reported.

There had been speculation that leader Kim Jong-un could order a nuclear test to coincide with celebrations to mark the 105th anniversary of the birth of North Korea's founding president, Kim Il-sung, last Saturday.

The images showed indications of some minor dumping from mine carts, which could indicate tunnelling work, but no active pumping of water out of the tunnel system used for nuclear testing, they added.

"What we've seen", he told reporters, "is somewhat unusual".

But look closely. What is that at the bottom right of the image?

Both Hanham and Bermudez agreed that the site could still be ready for a nuclear test.

North Korea's playing a deadly game. An additional image in the report showed what the analysts identified as a "possible volleyball net" near the command area.

Volleyball is a popular sport in North Korea and the country's women's national team came third in the 1972 Munich Olympics - beating neighbors and rivals South Korea to the podium.

Mr. Bermudez is an adviser to AllSource Analysis, a Colorado company that analyzes satellite images and other information for government and commercial clients.

Two U.S. intelligence officials told NBC News that North Korea is in a position to conduct a nuclear test with little or no warning.

38 North says the images could be a sign the site has been changed to a "stand-by" status or that North Korea has taken a tactical pause in preparations at the site as part of a deception technique.

Related News: