There appears to be some hectic activity at North Korea's Punggye-ri nuclear test site, according to satellite images. "Significant movement" of equipment, materials, carts and more at the nuclear site's West Portal have been uncovered by satellites. The resurgence of activities at Punggye-ri have sparked fears of Pyongyang likely prepping for another nuclear test.
According to experts at 38North, a US-based think tank, the West Portal of the nuclear site had seen little to no activity, until recently. In comparison, satellite images reveal that fairly little activity had recently occurred at the North Portal, where the last five of the six nuclear tests were conducted.
"While it is not possible to determine the exact purpose of these activities from imagery alone, they could be associated with new nuclear test preparations at the West Portal, further maintenance on the West Portal in general and/or the abandonment of the North Portal," experts at 38North said in a report.
The revelations detailed by the satellite images back up recent reports by the South Korean National Intelligence Service (NIS) that hinted that North Korea could conduct new nuclear tests in the near future.
The site's command centre area, which has been "generally quiet" till now, was spotted containing a possible vehicle and some covered stack of materials. "A new possible small shed is visible on the more recent imagery of the adjacent support area," 38North experts say. In addition, a new structure appears to have allegedly been developed behind the guard barracks over the past month.
In the wake of the most recent nuclear tests North Korea conducted in September, significant movement of equipment and materials has been observed at the West Portal. This likely hints that further tests may be conducted at the West Portal in the future, instead of the North Portal.
Last week, unconfirmed reports of a tunnel at the Punggye-ri site collapsing and killing hundreds made headlines. The reports, however, were later slammed by the Kim Jong-un-led regime. According to 38North experts, satellite images of the site so far have not revealed any evidence of such a tunnel collapse.
"While it is possible that the North Portal has been at least temporarily abandoned in the aftermath of the September 3 nuclear test, the overall Punggye-ri Nuclear Test Site is neither abandoned nor mothballed. Significant tunnel-related operations continue at the West Portal, while the South Portal remains in a continuing state of nuclear test readiness," 38North concluded in its report.