North Korea’s Punggye-ri Nuclear Test Site: Bridge and Roadway Repairs Noted Along Recently Flood-Damaged Roads

Recent commercial satellite imagery of North Korea’s Punggye-ri Nuclear Test Site indicates that vehicle access to the complex has now been restored. The previously flood-damaged roadway—which runs the entirety of the complex and is the only means for vehicles to gain access to the test tunnel area—has been repaired, most notably with the installation of new bridges along the entire route. While access to the Command Center is still limited, some sections of the road in this area have been repaired and rerouted. These repairs enable North Korea to maintain a continuous personnel presence on site, if for no other reason than security and monitoring purposes.

Portal Areas

The footbridge across the streambed between the West and North Portals, which had provided the only easy pedestrian access to the North Portal area, remains washed out. The portal can still be accessed by foot, albeit with some difficulty. It is improbable that the now-closed North Portal tunnel complex—which leads under Mt. Mantap and was the site of the last five nuclear tests—will ever be used again, but regular access by security and site-survey personnel can be expected to continue.

While vehicle access has been restored to both the West and South Portal areas, the East Portal area remains accessible only by foot.

Figure 1. Access road to South Portal repaired.

Left image: Image Pleiades © CNES 2020, Distribution Airbus DS. Right Image: Satellite image © 2020 Maxar Technologies. All rights reserved. For media licensing options, please contact thirtyeightnorth[email protected]

Figure 2. New bridges installed along access road.

Left image: Image Pleiades © CNES 2020, Distribution Airbus DS. Right Image: Satellite image © 2020 Maxar Technologies. All rights reserved. For media licensing options, please contact [email protected]

Command Center and Security Barracks

As previously reported, the Command Center and security barracks appear to have been undamaged by the flooding. While some areas of the road passing the security barracks have been repaired and rerouted, significant sections of the access road to the Command Center that had been washed away have yet to be repaired. This prevents direct vehicle access to the Command Center compound, although personnel can still access the center via at least one footpath from the south.

Figure 3. Some sections repaired and rerouted on road passing the security barracks, but vehicle access to the command center still blocked.

Left image: Image Pleiades © CNES 2020, Distribution Airbus DS. Right image: Satellite image © 2020 Maxar Technologies. All rights reserved. For media licensing options, please contact [email protected]

The Southern Support Area

Although the Southern Support area appears to have been undamaged, a key bridge leading north to both the Command Center and the main test tunnel support area was washed away. The November image shows that along with a newly graded roadway, there is also a new bridge providing vehicle access northward, up the valley.

Figure 4. New bridge and newly graded roadway at the Southern Support area.

Left image: Image Pleiades © CNES 2020, Distribution Airbus DS. Right image: Satellite image © 2020 Maxar Technologies. All rights reserved. For media licensing options, please contact [email protected]

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