WASHINGTON, U.S. - A Washington-based think tank, specializing in tracking the North Korean nuclear activities has recorded significant work at North Korea’s nuclear test site - forecasting that something big might be coming.
According to the think tank 38North, “significant tunneling” work has been detected at North Korea’s Punggye-ri nuclear test site.
38North said that satellite images from December show increasing efforts to maintain the test site where North Korea has conducted the last six underground nuclear tests.
The report by the think tank run by Johns Hopkins University stated that
“Throughout December 2017, mining carts and personnel were consistently present around the West Portal and there was significant expansion of the spoil pile.”
It noted that there also appear to be new rails on top of the spoil pile.
Late in October, reports emerged that a tunnel at the nuclear site had crumbled, with analysts stating that this was likely because of the country's sixth and most powerful nuclear test in September.
Analysts also said that 200 people were potentially killed as the tunnel collapsed and the incident threw the site’s future in to question.
However, analysis of satellite images now suggests that although the North Portal of the site – where the last five nuclear tests were conducted – remains “dormant,” tunnel excavation in the West Portal has been “stepped up.”
38North said in its report, “On December 28, there were also a large number of personnel observed in seven different formations whose purpose is unknown in the Southern Support Area.”
The news came as a shocker to many experts since analysts pointed out, “It is rare to observe personnel in this area.”
The report said that such activities “underscore North Korea’s continued efforts to maintain the Punggye-ri site’s potential for future nuclear testing.”
Activity at the nuclear test site has been reported just days after North Korean officials met with South Korean officials for the first time in more than two years.
North Korea agreed to send a delegation to next month’s Winter Olympics in the South and to discuss easing military hostilities in the discussion on Tuesday.
North Korea’s communist regime has long been boasting about the continuing development of nuclear weapons and its strike capabilities.
In November, the regime said its new intercontinental ballistic missile can carry a “super heavy nuclear warhead” that could reach the U.S. mainland.
On Thursday, amid talks between the two Koreas and following revelations made by the 38North report, the U.S. announced that it has deployed three nuclear-capable B-2 stealth bombers and 200 air personnel in the territory of Guam.
In August last year, North Korea had threatened to launch a missile that would strike Guam, amid a heated rhetoric between U.S. and the nuclear nation.
Commenting on the U.S. decision to deploy the bombers to Guam, Marine Corps Lt. Gen. Kenneth F. McKenzie Jr. said, “The bomber deployment is part of an ongoing planned deployment that affects not only the Korean Peninsula, but also a broader alliance structure in the Pacific.”