North Korea may be preparing nuclear test

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North Korea may be preparing to conduct its first nuclear test since 2017, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) has predicted in Vienna.

Observation of the Punggye-ri underground nuclear test site in the north of the country pointed to the reopening of shafts, IAEA general director Rafael Grossi said on Monday.

"At the Nuclear Test Site at Punggye-ri we have observed indications that one of the adits (entrances) has been reopened, possibly in preparation for a nuclear test. The conduct of a nuclear test would contravene UN Security Council resolutions and would be a cause for serious concern," Grossi said.

The country's nuclear program was "a clear violation of relevant UN Security Council resolutions," Grossi said, calling on North Korea to comply fully with its obligations under relevant UN Security Council resolutions and to cooperate with the IAEA.

North Korea should resolve all outstanding issues, "especially those that have arisen during the absence of Agency inspectors from the country," he added.

North Korea, which does not allow international inspectors into the country, conducted six nuclear tests at the Punggye-ri site between 2006 and 2017. The IAEA, an autonomous organisation within the UN system, monitors the nuclear sites with the aid of satellites.

On Sunday, North Korea responded to a joint naval exercise carried out by the US and South Korea by launching eight short-range ballistic missiles into the sea, in defiance of multiple UN resolutions prohibiting their use by Pyongyang.

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