US sends 'sniffer plane' to detect North Korean nuclear activity: report

A US nuclear ‘sniffer’ aircraft has been dispatched to the east of the Korean Peninsula amid the recent rising tensions with North Korea according to a government source.

"The WC-135 Constant Phoenix, a special-purpose U.S. plane, made an emergency sortie today over the East Sea," the source told Yonhap News.

According to reports its mission is to collect samples from the atmosphere in a bid to detect, then later identify any nuclear explosion.

The Punggye-ri nuclear test site is reportedly “primed and ready” for another nuclear test. Source: YahooUS

The ‘sniffer’ aircraft arrived at Kadena Air Base in Okinawa, Japan earlier in the month as tensions reached a fever pitch, with the possibility of North Korea preparing for a nuclear attack continued to grow according to the news outlet.

The recent flight on Thursday seemingly means to check if the secretive communist nation has in fact detonated nuclear devices.

According to the reports the sniffer aircraft also performed operational readiness testing.

Meanwhile Foreign Minister Julie Bishop has indicated North Korea will be subjected to further sanctions from Australia.


North Korean leader Kim Jong-un waves during a military parade. Source: AP

"The idea behind the sanctions is to send the clearest possible message to North Korea, that its behaviour will not be tolerated, that a nuclear-armed North Korea is not acceptable to our region," she said.

The North Korean nuclear threat dominated Ms Bishop's and Defence Minister Marise Payne's talks with their Japanese counterparts in Tokyo on Thursday.

At the same time, Ms Bishop urged China to step up pressure on the rogue nation to stamp out its belligerent and illegal behaviour.

"We believe that more should and could be done by China," in view of the two countries' unique relationship, Ms Bishop said.

A missile on display during a recent military parade in North Korea. Photo: AP

China is the source of virtually all of North Korea's foreign direct investment, trade and energy.

There were also unconfirmed reports that North Korea has notified China of its intention to perform nuclear experiments.

North Korea's latest missile test fizzled over the weekend, but it conducted two nuclear test explosions and 24 ballistic missile tests last year.