'N. Korea's Punggye-ri Nuclear Test Site Shows Significant Tunneling Activity'

Lester Mason
January 13, 2018

Pyongyang watchdog 38 North reports tunnel excavation has been stepped up at the West Portal with "significant tunnelling" underway in the area.

The North Korea monitoring site said on Thursday that throughout December 2017, there were "mining carts and personnel" as well as what appeared to be a "spoil pile" that had been greatly expanded at the test facility's west portal. The last five of Pyongyang's six nuclear tests have been carried out under Mount Mantap at Punggye-ri in the country's north-west, all of them at the North Tunnel.

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

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 larger natural disaster on September 23 had a magnitude of 3.2.

The three recent tremors could have caused damage to the tunnel networks but satellite images cannot confirm this.

38North experts believe that the spurt in activities at the Punggye-ri site indicates Pyongyang's continued efforts to keep the site ready for more nuclear tests.

These expert observers note that while the North Portal, where North Korea tested a suspected staged thermonuclear weapon - a hydrogen bomb - in early September previous year, remains dormant, there is plenty of activity at the West Portal. "The target of all our nuclear and hydrogen bombs and ICBMs and all other sophisticated weapons is the U.S.", the North's chief delegate Ri Son-Gwon said.

But North Korea made no promises on its weapons programme at the talks, and lashed out when asked about denuclearisation by South Korean journalists, saying it was not up for discussion.

While military tensions have shown no signs of breaking, with the U.S. 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.

"With all of the failed "experts" weighing in, does anybody really believe that talks and dialogue would be going on between North and South Korea right now if I wasn't firm, strong and willing to commit our total "might" against the North. Fools, but talks are a good thing!" said US President Donald Trump via Twitter, taking credit for the talks beginning.

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

In October, Trump infamously declared that his Secretary of State Rex Tillerson was "wasting his time trying to negotiate" with North Korean leaders.

Other reports by Iphone Fresh

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