The Margin: Satellite images show new activity at North Korea nuclear test site


38 North

North Korea has used the Punggye-ri test site for previous nuke tests.

In what may be the first visible clue that North Korea is preparing for another nuclear test, new activity has been detected at a test site where the secretive regime has held three previous detonations.

A series of satellite images of the Punggye-ri test site taken a few days ago showed several large vehicles parked near a tunnel entrance and the presence of numerous vehicles at a checkpoint leading to the western portal, according to Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies’s 38 North blog.

“Camouflage netting is also clearly visible over the entrance as is the usual practice to conceal activity,” analysts Jack Liu and Joseph Bermudez said in a blog post.

38 North

They also detected new activity at the south portal, where an existing tunnel has been widened and graded, and noted the completion of a new building at the main support area.

38 North

However, the analysts cautioned that they are not able to discern the purpose of the recent activity based on just the images.

“It could be related to anything from maintenance work to preparations for another nuclear test,” they wrote.

The signs of activity at the test site come amid widespread speculation that North Korea will mark the 70th anniversary of the Workers’ Party on Oct. 10 with either a missile launch or a nuclear test. If North Korea opts to detonate a nuclear device, it would mark the fourth test in its history and the first since 2013. The impoverished country believes nuclear armament is a key deterrence against external foes, most notably the U.S.

38 North is blog devoted to North Korea study that often backs up its analysis with expert sources and satellite imagery.

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