Update on North Korea’s Nuclear Test Site

A 38 North exclusive with analysis by Jack Liu and Joseph S. Bermudez, Jr.

Recent commercial satellite imagery from April 28 shows signs of continued low-level activity at the Punggye-ri nuclear test site. Based on available evidence, it is not possible to determine whether these activities are related to continued maintenance or reflect that Pyongyang has completed test preparations and a detonation is imminent. It is worth noting that the January 2016 nuclear test demonstrated that North Korea has the ability to slow-roll test preparations relatively unnoticed and is able to conduct a new test with little or no warning.

Imagery indicates that there are two possible vehicles or trailers as well as a few mining carts visible at the North Portal. The spoil piles at both the North and West Portals appear to have undergone some recent activity but it is not possible using current imagery to determine whether this is maintenance on the mine rail system or the depositing of small amounts of fresh spoil. No personnel are observed at either location.

Figure 1. Vehicle and carts seen at the North Portal.

Image includes material Pleiades © CNES 2016. Distribution Airbus DS / Spot Image, all rights reserved. For media licensing options, please contact thirtyeightnorth@gmail.com.
Image includes material Pleiades © CNES 2016. Distribution Airbus DS / Spot Image, all rights reserved. For media licensing options, please contact [email protected]

Figure 2. Activity seen at the North and West Portal spoil piles.

Image includes material Pleiades © CNES 2016. Distribution Airbus DS / Spot Image, all rights reserved. For media licensing options, please contact thirtyeightnorth@gmail.com.
Image includes material Pleiades © CNES 2016. Distribution Airbus DS / Spot Image, all rights reserved. For media licensing options, please contact [email protected]

There is no apparent activity observed at the South Portal.

Figure 3. No activity at the South Portal.

Image includes material Pleiades © CNES 2016. Distribution Airbus DS / Spot Image, all rights reserved. For media licensing options, please contact thirtyeightnorth@gmail.com.
Image includes material Pleiades © CNES 2016. Distribution Airbus DS / Spot Image, all rights reserved. For media licensing options, please contact [email protected]

In the Main Support Area, while there are no vehicles present, personnel are visible. From their placement and distribution it appears they may be playing a game of soccer.

Figure 4. Group of personnel seen in the Main Support Area.

Image includes material Pleiades © CNES 2016. Distribution Airbus DS / Spot Image, all rights reserved. For media licensing options, please contact thirtyeightnorth@gmail.com.
Image includes material Pleiades © CNES 2016. Distribution Airbus DS / Spot Image, all rights reserved. For media licensing options, please contact [email protected]
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