North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un appears to be in the final preparations for a new nuclear detonation at the country’s Punggye-ri test site, raising tensions in Asia just as President Barack Obama arrived in South Korea Friday. The US-Korea Institute’s 38 North website published fresh analysis of activity at the site Thursday, concluding it is “probably related to preparations for a detonation.” The latest images were taken April 23, and show increased movement of vehicles and materials near what is believed to be the entrances to two test tunnels, and the presence of “command and control” vehicles, which provide secure communications between the site and the main support area. Traffic is also increasing between the support area and the test tunnels, per image analysis of the last few weeks. Similar vehicles were observed at the site prior to the North’s third nuclear test in February 2013. In a joint press conference Friday, Obama and South Korean President Park Guen-hye issued stark warnings to North Korea. Park said her government has confirmed the North is “fully ready to carry out the fourth nuclear test,” but is not certain on when it will occur. She added another test would “fundamentally change” the security situation in Northeast Asia.
The F-35 Joint Program Office has officially announced plans to issue multiple sole-source contracts to Pratt & Whitney to upgrade the fighter’s F135 engine—a widely expected move after Pentagon officials indicated they would do so earlier this year instead of developing an entirely new engine.