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Construction at North Korea’s nuclear test site spotted for first time since 2018 – report

FILE PHOTO: A North Korean flag flutters atop a 160-meter tower in North Korea's propaganda village of Gijungdong, in this image taken from Tae Sung Freedom Village near the Military Demarcation Line (MDL) in Paju
FILE PHOTO: A North Korean flag flutters atop a 160-meter tower in North Korea’s propaganda village of Gijungdong, in this image taken from Tae Sung Freedom Village near the Military Demarcation Line (MDL) within the demilitarized zone separating the two Koreas, in Paju, South Korea April 24, 2018. REUTERS/Kim Hong-Ji/File Photo

March 8, 2022

By Josh Smith

SEOUL (Reuters) – Commercial satellite imagery shows construction at North Korea’s nuclear test site for the first time since it closed in 2018, US-based analysts said on Tuesday, raising concerns the country could resume testing of key weapons.

Images captured by satellite on Friday showed very early signs of activity at the Punggye-ri site, including the construction of a new building, repairs to another building and possibly lumber and sawdust, for specialists at the California-based James Martin Center Responsible are Nonproliferation Studies (CNS) in a report.

“The construction and repair work indicates that North Korea has made a decision on the status of the test site,” the report said.

North Korea tested a record number of missiles in January, including its biggest weapon since 2017, and appears to be preparing to launch a spy satellite.

International observers have also reported that the north’s main nuclear reactor facility at Yongbyon appears to be operating at full capacity and may be producing fuel for nuclear weapons.

Punggye-ri has been closed since North Korea declared a self-imposed moratorium on nuclear weapons tests in 2018. However, leader Kim Jong Un said he no longer feels bound by that moratorium as talks on denuclearization have stalled since 2019.

At the time, North Korea said it would close the site’s tunnels with blasts, block its entrances and remove all observation facilities, research buildings and security posts. It invited a handful of foreign media to watch the demolition but refused to allow international inspectors, leading to speculation that the facilities could be restored.

In South Korea, where voters are set to elect a new president on Wednesday, the National Security Council said Sunday it was paying particular attention to Yongbyon and Punggye-ri without elaborating.

The CNS analysts said the changes at Punggye-ri have only occurred in the past few days and it’s still difficult to say exactly what is being built or why.

“One possibility is that North Korea plans to restore the test site to a state of readiness to resume nuclear explosives testing,” the report said.

The CNS analysts warned that the test site was ready for new nuclear explosions for many months, if not years.

“How long it would take North Korea to resume explosives testing at the site depends on the extent of damage to the tunnels themselves, something we do not know with confidence,” they wrote in the report. “It is also possible that North Korea will resume nuclear testing elsewhere.”

Punggye-ri is North Korea’s only known nuclear test site. It conducted six nuclear weapons tests in tunnels at the site from 2006 to 2017. North Korea’s latest and largest nuclear test appeared to trigger a geological instability that has since caused several small earthquakes, but analysts and US intelligence officials said the site could likely be used again.

A Pentagon spokesman, Lt. Col. Marty Meiners, declined to comment on intelligence or commercial image analysis issues.

“However, we have the threat of the DPRK’s missile programs and our commitment to defending the ROK, Japan and the US homeland, and our commitment to maintaining regional peace and stability,” he said, using the initials the official names of North and South Korea.

The United States says it is open to talks with no preconditions, but North Korea says Washington and its allies must end their “hostile policies” first.

(Reporting by Josh Smith; Additional reporting by David Brunnstrom in Washington; Editing by Richard Pullin and Lincoln Feast.)

https://www.oann.com/construction-spotted-at-n-korea-nuclear-test-site-for-first-time-since-2018-report/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=construction-spotted-at-n-korea-nuclear-test-site-for-first-time-since-2018-report Construction at North Korea’s nuclear test site spotted for first time since 2018 – report

Bobby Allyn

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