The U.S. Air Force dispatched a nuclear sniffer aircraft Thursday to the east of the Korean Peninsula amid the possibility of North Korea’s imminent nuclear test, a government source said. “The WC-135 Constant Phoenix, a special-purpose U.S. plane, made an emergency sortie today over the East Sea,” the source said, requesting anonymity. Its mission is to collect samples from the atmosphere in order to detect and identity a nuclear explosion.

It arrived at Kadena Air Base in Okinawa, Japan, early this month amid indications that the North is preparing for another nuclear test. Thursday’s flight appears meant to check whether the secretive communist nation has detonated a nuclear bomb. It also tests operational readiness in the event of an actual provocation by the North, added the source. There was an unconfirmed rumor that North Korea has notified China of its nuclear experiment plan. READ MORE