15:55 GMT09 May 2021
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    A satellite imagery released by the 38 North monitoring website shows that North Korea is resuming excavation operations at the Punggye-ri nuclear test site.

    MOSCOW (Sputnik) – North Korea is resuming excavation operations at the Punggye-ri nuclear test site, satellite imagery released by the 38 North monitoring website shows.

    "New commercial satellite imagery of North Korea’s Punggye-ri nuclear test site from April 19 shows limited vehicle and equipment activity at the North Portal and Main Support Area as well as indications of resumed excavation operations at the West Portal. These activities by themselves do not establish that test preparations are imminent. However, the possibility of an impending test cannot be ruled out," 38 North said in a Wednesday report.

    The April 19 imagery accompanying the 38 North report shows a trailer or vehicle outside the entrance to the North Portal, which is the site of the past three nuclear tests conducted by North Korea.

    "The truck’s exact purpose remains unclear although it is worth noting that its location is similar to the spot where one, possibly two vehicles and personnel were observed three days prior to the February 12, 2013 nuclear test," 38 North said.

    According to the monitory website, satellite imagery shows that tunnel excavation operations at the site are about to resume, or have already resumed for the first time this year.

    "Excavation operations can be undertaken concurrently with preparations for a nuclear test, as was the case during the run-up to this January’s detonation. Such a concurrent activity could be part of the North’s camouflage, concealment and deception procedures for the facility," 38 North explained.

    Last week, the monitoring website released satellite imagery of new developments at the Yongbyon Nuclear Scientific Research Center suggesting that North Korea could be producing more plutonium for nuclear weapons.

    North Korea declared itself a nuclear power in 2005. The United States, Japan and South Korea, as well as Russia and China, took part in talks with North Korea on the denuclearization of the Korean peninsula between 2003 and 2009, when Pyongyang withdrew from the talks.

    On January 6 Pyongyang claimed it had successfully tested a hydrogen bomb. The United Nations previously imposed sanctions on North Korea for three tests it carried out in 2006, 2009 and 2013.

    Pyongyang’s January hydrogen bomb test, as well as the launch, a month later, of a long-range rocket to allegedly place a satellite into orbit, in defiance of UN Security Council (UNSC) resolutions, led to more sanctions having been imposed on North Korea by the UNSC and the United States.

    The 38 North website is maintained by the US-Korea Institute at Johns Hopkins University's Paul H. Nitze School of Advanced International Studies. The blog, authored by its faculty and by guest commentators, analyzes various reporting on North Korea.


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