Commercial satellites have picked up imagery showing “continuing activity at all three tunnel complexes that could be used to conduct a nuclear test,” at the country’s Punggye-ri Nuclear Test Site, a new report on the 38 North website notes. The website is run by the US-Korea Institute at the Johns Hopkins University School of Advanced International Studies, which monitors the pariah state’s activities.
AP Photo/ KCNA via KNS
The activity at the testing site, which saw its most recent blast September 9, could indicate preparations for another test, or simply that researchers are collecting post test data or sealing the tunnel, the think tank says.
Imagery from October 1 shows a large vehicle near the North Portal; near the South Portal, two small vehicles can be seen on the road and a group of people standing near one of the entrances, “indicating ongoing work or maintenance,” 38 North says.
“It is unclear if this activity is test related although this area may be fully capable of supporting a test since excavation stopped in 2012,” the report notes.
Around the West Portal and the Main Support Area are seen a handful of carts or vehicles. 38 North surmises that excavation in the West Portal has not resumed, as the nearby spoil pile has not increased in size.
“We are continuing to maintain a quasi-emergency posture ordered by President Park Geun-hye since North Korea’s fifth nuclear test last month,” said South Korean presidential spokesman Jung Youn-kuk in a briefing October 7, Korea Joongang Daily reports. Seoul is “observing closely” any sign of further nuclear or missile tests, he said.
North Korea’s most recent nuclear test was September 9. It has conducted five increasingly powerful nuclear tests since 2006, two of them this year. Reuters reports that there is speculation another blast may be planned for this month, perhaps to mark the October 10 anniversary of the founding of the North Korea Workers’ Party.
Over the past few months, the country has tested ballistic missiles, including launching one from a submarine.
The UN imposed a new array of sanctions of sanctions on North Korea in March after its first 2016 nuclear test.