Seoul, March 8 (EFE).- United States experts have detected construction work at the North Korean Punggye-ri nuclear test base from satellite photos for the first time since the regime closed it in May 2018.
It comes just days after South Korea’s National Security Council said Punggye-ri and the Yongbyon nuclear research center, a site from which Pyongyang sources pump fuel and has been showing uninterrupted activity, are being closely watched since last year.
“There is construction at the North Korean nuclear test center for the first time since North Korea announced the closure and dismantling of the site in spring 2018,” wrote Jeffrey Lewis and Dave Schmerler of the James Martin Center for Nonproliferation Studies online.
From satellite images taken Mar. 4, “we see early signs of activity in a new area, including the construction of a new building, the repair of another and what are possibly logs and sawdust,” said the specialists, adding that wood in North Korea is essential to build buildings and tunnels.
They have been following images obtained from Punggye-ri with particular attention since January. The regime said, given stalled dialogue with the US, it was considering ending its self-imposed moratorium on nuclear and intercontinental ballistic missile tests and added that changes seen in photos “have occurred in the last few days.”
“The construction and repair work shows North Korea has made some decisions about the status of the test center. One possibility is that North Korea plans to have the test center ready in a day to resume its tests of nuclear explosives, according to the statement North Korea issued in January,” they said.
The experts also said it would be many months, or even years, before Punggye-ri could host evidence again, and that it is difficult to calculate these deadlines since it depends on the damage to the tunnels.
Punggye-ri, in the northeast of the country, is where the regime has carried out its six atomic tests (the last one in 2017) and Pyongyang decided to close it down. It invited foreign journalists to see how it dynamited underground galleries, just before the first summit between leader Kim Jong-un and then US President Donald Trump. EFE