Korean site, hints future nuke test

Sergio Conner
January 13, 2018

North Korea's Punngye-ri nuclear test site has recently witnessed increased activities, which could indicate that the reclusive nation may be preparing for yet another missile test.

"Throughout December 2017, mining carts and personnel were consistently present around the West Portal and there was significant expansion of the spoil pile", the report said.

The North Portal seems to have been abandoned due to the damage it sustained in September, during the country's last nuclear test and its largest to date.

However, an estimated nine mining carts were seen at the West Portal (Tunnel 4), and there appeared to be new rails on top of the spoil pile, which was seen expanding in size.

A previous analysis of satellite photographs of the West Portal in November revealed earlier work on the site.

In his New Year's address, North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un said the North is "open to dialogue" with the South, and the two sides met face-to-face for the first time in two years Tuesday. The tremors may have even affected nearby Paektu Mountain, a sacred mountain throughout Korean history and a major symbol of the North Korean regime.

While work remains dormant at the "North Portal", which is the site of the past five underground blasts, the satellite images show that excavation work at the "West Portal" has been "stepped up", said 38 North, which is run by Johns Hopkins University's School of Advanced International Studies.

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North Korea has stepped up tunnelling at its main nuclear test site, a USA think tank said, even as tensions cool on the peninsula following the resumption of long-stalled inter-Korean dialogue.

After visiting Pyongyang, Vorontsov said that tensions were skyhigh and soldiers were on high alert.

"However, Pyongyang is extremely serious about this scenario and is not bluffing when it says that "only one question remains: when will war break out?"

North Korean intelligence had reported "construction had resumed at a fourth tunnel (West Portal), making it unable to be used "for a considerable amount of time".

While military tensions have shown no signs of breaking, with the USA ordering three nuclear-capable B-2 stealth bombers to the Pacific territory of Guam on Thursday, both sides have proven more amenable to the notion of peace talks in 2018.

The talks resulted in the decision that North Korea would participate in the Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang, South Korea, in February.

Meanwhile, President Donald Trump boasted about having good relations with North Korean leader Kim Jon Un in an interview with the Wall Street Journal on Thursday.

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