Update on Punggye-ri Nuclear Test Site: No Indications that a Nuclear Test is Imminent

Despite predictions by the South Korean government that a nuclear test appeared imminent to coincide with the DPRK’s 7th Congress of the Workers’ Party of Korea, that gathering is now ended and there are no apparent signs that a detonation will occur in the near future. Recent commercial satellite imagery of North Korea’s Punggye-ri Nuclear Test Site from May 8 shows low levels of activity at the test site, but vehicles previously observed at what is believed to be the Command Center in imagery from May 5 are no longer present. This level of activity throughout the facility suggests that it remains capable of supporting additional tests once a decision to move forward is made in Pyongyang.

North Portal

Several small vehicles or trailers and a small group of people remain present immediately outside the North Portal. A group of mine ore carts and equipment is seen immediately east of the portal. No new activity is observed on the spoil pile.

Figure 1. Small vehicles or trailers and several people present at the North Portal.

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West Portal

There is no activity of significance at the West Portal. The mine portal and the tiered headworks above the portal are clearly visible. Additionally, no new activity is observed at the spoil pile.

Figure 2. No significant activity at the West Portal.

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Main Support Area

While no vehicles are present at the Main Support Area, a group of people can be seen in the northern courtyard. Additionally, given the higher resolution of this image, the objects previously identified on the north side of the greenhouse in the main courtyard appear to be three groups of crates or supplies supported by posts or fences. Plants are visible growing within the greenhouse.

Figure 3. Group of people present at the Main Support Area.

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South Portal

A small vehicle and a number of people are present approximately 12 meters in front of the South Portal. Vehicles and people have not typically been observed at this location during the past several years. The significance of their presence is not yet readily apparent.

Figure 4. Small vehicle and people identified outside of the South Portal.

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Facility Access Road

No vehicles or people are observed moving along the road south of the test facility.

Command Center

The four vehicles previously observed in the May 5 image are no longer present. A portion of an inner security fence and the support area are clearly visible in this May 8 image.

Figure 5. Vehicles no longer present at Command Center.

Image © 2016 DigitalGlobe, Inc. All rights reserved. For media licensing options, please contact thirtyeightnorth@gmail.com.
Image © 2016 DigitalGlobe, Inc. All rights reserved. For media licensing options, please contact [email protected]
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38 North: News and Analysis on North Korea