SEOUL - New satellite imagery suggests North Korea is preparing to conduct its fourth nuclear test, a US think-tank said Friday just hours before President Barack Obama arrives in South Korea for a visit.
The analysis by the US-Korea Institute at Johns Hopkins University echoed recent warnings from South Korea that the North might be planning a test to coincide with Obama's two-day visit.
The satellite images, taken just two days ago, showed additional activity at the Punggye-ri test site that is "probably related to preparations for a detonation," the institute said on its closely followed 38 North website.
Analysis suggested increased movement of vehicles and materials near what are believed to be the entrances to two completed test tunnels.
Also visible were probable command and control vehicles intended to provide secure communications between the test site and other facilities.
North Korea has conducted three nuclear tests in 2006, 2009 and 2013.
The 38 North post noted that preparations for the test in February last year had peaked two or three days before detonation.
The withdrawal of all equipment, vehicles and personnel had occurred immediately before the blast.
"Whether North Korea will follow the same timeline in 2014 remains unclear," it said.
The nuclear threat from Pyongyang will top Obama's agenda in South Korea, a key US regional ally which hosts a permanent deployment of 28,500 US troops.
"North Korea has engaged in provocative actions for the last several decades," Obama said in Tokyo on Thursday.