According to a new report, satellite images show even more tunneling now under way at North Korea's nuclear test site at Punggye-ri.
The North Korean observation group 38 North, citing commercial satellite imagery, has concluded the Hermit Kingdom has abandoned the “North Portal,” where the five most recent nuclear tests have occurred. It now appears to be turning its attention to the “West Portal,” which has never been used before.
The analysis states:
Throughout December 2017, mining carts and personnel were consistently present around the West Portal and there was significant expansion of the spoil pile.
On December 28, there were also a large number of personnel (~100 to 120) observed in seven different formations whose purpose is unknown in the Southern Support Area.
These activities underscore North Korea’s continued efforts to maintain the Punggye-ri site’s potential for future nuclear testing.
Before and after images show a substantial expansion of the West Portal spoil pile, suggesting the current excavations there are “extensive.” The report notes that the presence of personnel at the Southern Support Area is “rare,” but could not conclude why they would be present.
Several reports from North Korean defectors have suggested there would be another significant nuclear test to coincide with Kim Jong-un’s birthday, which was Jan. 8, but nothing happened that day. There remains deep concern that another nuclear blast at the site could cause the collapse of Mount Mantap, which would result in an unparalleled environmental disaster.