Continued Unidentified Activity at Site of North Korea’s Last Nuclear Test

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

Recent commercial satellite imagery from August 4, 2016 shows continued activity at the Punggye-ri Nuclear Test Site, specifically at the North Portal, site of North Korea’s fourth nuclear test conducted in January 2016. While supplies and/or equipment stacked on the ground south and southeast of the North Portal, as well as a small vehicle at the support building, visible in July are no longer present, a 6-meter by 9-meter net canopy has been erected immediately south of the support building. The canopy is not camouflaged, but does prevent accurate observation of the area it covers.

Figure 1. New net canopy erected at the North Portal.

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Image © 2016 DigitalGlobe, Inc. All rights reserved. For media licensing options, please contact [email protected]

The purpose of this activity as well as of an object located on the tailings pile to the east of the North Portal is unclear. The resolution of the imagery is not sufficient to identify, but given the location, it may be a small vehicle or group of smaller objects such as mine ore carts.

Imagery also indicates very limited activity in other areas of the Punggye-ri test site.

  • An object, likely a small vehicle, is present on the south side of the main support building at the West Portal.
  • At the Main Support Area, a large truck is visible in the south courtyard. Additionally, supplies or crates are stacked in front of the greenhouse, which appears to be actively being tended.
  • The South Portal is almost completely obscured by clouds and no meaningful observations are possible.
  • Several groups of people and small vehicles observed on the road south of the test facility in July are no longer present although large sections of the road are obscured by the summer tree canopy.
  • A large truck, the purpose of which is unclear, is present in front of the main building in the Command Center area. A building east of the Command Center on the main road that appears to be for support of security forces has been externally completed.

Figure 2. Small vehicle or object present at West Portal.

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]

Figure 3. Truck and supplies or crates visible at the Main Support Area.

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]

Figure 4. Large truck present in Command Center area.

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]

Figure 5. New building east of Command Center externally complete.

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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