New activity detected at North Korea’s nuclear test facility | Nuclear Weapons News


Satellite images suggest work is underway on a second tunnel at the Punggye-ri nuclear test facility, according to a US think tank.

North Korea has essentially completed restoration work at its Punggye-ri nuclear test facility and appears to be expanding construction activities on a second tunnel, according to a new analysis from the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS).

The Washington DC-based think tank said commercial satellite images obtained from June 14 showed “minor new activity ‘at Tunnel No. 3’, indicating that renovation and construction work over the past four months [was] essentially complete, and the tunnel is now ready for the oft-speculated seventh nuclear test.”

He added that there appeared to be “new construction activity” at Tunnel No 4, “strongly suggesting an effort to reactivate it for potential future testing”.

After conducting a record number of missile tests this year, including an intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM), the United States, South Korea and Japan believe Pyongyang is preparing for its first nuclear test in five years. Punggye-ri was dismantled in 2018 – with North Korea sharing eye-catching footage of blown up tunnel entrances – as the country entered a brief period of high-level diplomacy on denuclearisation.

CSIS analysis said the images showed new construction materials near the entrance to the portal of Tunnel No. 4, which was destroyed in 2018.

“The extent of the actual damage inside the tunnels due to the deactivation was unclear, and these new activity indicators suggest that the deactivation was not complete, as is the case with tunnel n °3,” the think tank said.

Punggye-ri was used as a nuclear test site for over 10 years from 2006, with six tests taking place there.

The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) said last week that there were indications that one of the passages known as the access tunnels in Punggye-ri had been reopened, possibly to be in preparation for a nuclear test. He said the country was also continuing to expand key facilities at its main nuclear site in Yongbyon.

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