“Significant” activity has been detected by commercial satellite at North Korea’s Punggye-ri nuclear test site.
According to 38North, a website which provides analysis on North Korea, substantial tunneling efforts have been observed in recent weeks at the mountainous location.
While Punggye-ri’s North Portal, the site of Pyongyang’s last five nuclear tests, remains inactive, equipment and personnel have recently appeared at the West Portal.
“Recent commercial satellite imagery of North Korea’s Punggye-ri Nuclear Test Site indicates that the North Portal, where the last five nuclear tests were conducted, remains dormant and that tunnel excavation has been stepped up at the West Portal,” the site said. “Throughout December 2017, mining carts and personnel were consistently present around the West Portal and there was significant expansion of the spoil pile.”
Recent commercial satellite imagery shows that the North Portal of Punggye-ri is dormant, but there is significant tunneling underway at the West Portal. https://t.co/u46LgcV0ew
— 38 North (@38NorthNK) January 11, 2018
The satellite imagery shows water draining from the entrance of the dormant North Portal, nine mining carts and new rails at the West Portal and as many as 120 personnel at the Southern Support Area.
“100-120 people in the courtyard in seven formations,” 38North writes. “It is rare to observe personnel in this area and the purpose of their activities is unknown.”
Analysts say North Korea’s consistent presence and ongoing work across Punggye-ri suggests the country intends to continue nuclear testing.
“These activities underscore North Korea’s continued efforts to maintain the Punggye-ri site’s potential for future nuclear testing,” 38North states.
News of the findings comes amid a possible détente as South Korea agrees to let North Korea participate in February’s Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang.
The decision was made after Pyongyang reached out to Seoul over a direct communications hotline for the first time in two years.
Meanwhile, a report from The Telegraph late last month has claimed that the Trump administration is preparing for a possible “bloody nose” strike on sites across North Korea.
Trump denied those reports during a telephone call Wednesday with South Korean President Moon Jae-in.
The U.S. president also stated during an interview with the Wall Street Journal Thursday that he believed his relationship with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un was “very good.”
“I probably have a very good relationship with Kim Jong Un,” Trump said. “I have relationships with people. I think you people are surprised.”