Commercial satellite imagery from March 31 indicates probable new excavation activity at the South Portal of Punggye-ri Nuclear Test Site. Snow patterns on the March 31 image indicate heavily trafficked roads around the South Portal and surrounding southern support area, whereas roads to the other portals remain snow covered. What appears to be a new spoil pile has formed across from the Tunnel No. 3 complex (as designated by North Korean diagrams, aka, the South Portal [see Figure 8 of 38 North’s report from May 2018]) leading to an area just east of the former tunnel entrance that was exploded as part of site dismantlement efforts in 2018. While some reports have suggested North Korea is trying to build a shortcut to these test tunnels, it seems more likely it has chosen to excavate into a stable point rather than digging through the fractured rock around the former entrance.
Figure 1. Heavy traffic and probable new spoil around the South Portal.
Figure 2. Close up of South Portal.
This new probable excavation activity, along with reports of repair and erection of support buildings in this southern support area over the past few months, appears to indicate attempts to restore the South Portal for future use. It is worth noting that some technical buildings like the Command and Control Center were not destroyed in 2018, which enables restoration of earlier site capabilities.