Experts: North Korea Gearing Up for Another Nuclear Test at Collapsing Site

Tuesday, December 12, 2017
By Paul Martin

Three American experts on North Korea claim that Pyongyang is preparing for another nuclear test at its Punggye-ri test site, despite reports that the facility is falling apart due to the aftershocks of their previous test on September 3.

Joseph Bermudez Jr, Jack Liu and Frank Pabian, experts with Korean Peninsula analysis group 38 North, say there has been a “consistently high level of activity” at Punggye-ri according to satellite imagery. Punggye-ri’s testing portals are dug into the side of Mt. Mantap, where all six of North Korea’s nuclear tests since 2006, including the most recent one in September 2017, were conducted.

“Despite the continuation of small tremors near Mt. Mantap since North Korea’s last nuclear test, tunnel work at the Punggye-ri Nuclear Test Site is still underway,” the analysts wrote on 38 North. “These efforts continue to be concentrated at the West Portal, leaving the North Portal…mostly dormant and likely abandoned, at least for the time being. At the West Portal, there has been a consistently high level of activity since North Korea’s last nuclear test.”

“Activity” includes personnel and vehicles coming and going with loaded mine carts, which suggests that a tunnel is being excavated and expanded.

The three scholars claimed something similar in November: the “significant movement of equipment, mining carts, material and netting” around the West Portal. In other words, the excavation has continued for at least five weeks now.

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