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New Excavation at N. Korea Nuclear Site Suggests Test Not Imminent New Excavation at N. Korea Nuclear Site Suggests Test Not Imminent

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New Excavation at N. Korea Nuclear Site Suggests Test Not Imminent


North Korean defectors on Saturday release balloons carrying leaflets denouncing North Korea's nuclear weapons work, near the Demilitarized Zone in Paju, South Korea. Newly detected excavation work at the North's atomic test site suggests a new underground explosion is not as imminent as was recently thought.(Chung Sung-Jun/Getty Images)

Newly detected digging at North Korea's nuclear test site suggests that another atomic blast is not imminent, according to 38 North.

In an examination of commercial satellite photographs taken between April 25 and May 1 of the "West Portal" area of the Punggye-ri test site, 38 North image expert Nick Hansen notes that the Kim Jong Un regime appears to be "continuing and perhaps stepping up excavation activities resumed" late last month.


In his Friday analysis, Hansen notes that were North Korea preparing to conduct another underground nuclear test in the immediate future, it would be clearing the entire site of personnel and equipment instead of opening a new phase of its tunnel expansion work.

Repeated warnings by Pyongyang officials in recent weeks of a forthcoming "new" kind of nuclear test have had many North Korea watchers on tenterhooks, waiting to see when the country might conduct its fourth atomic blast, and what form it could take. However, the North's foreign ministry last week said there was "no statute of limitations" for when it might conduct a nuclear test.

Apparent preparations for a nuclear test have been detected via satellite at the "South Portal" area of Punggye-ri. Hansen said the recent shifting of containers near one of the South Portal tunnel entrances "reinforces the conclusion that activity is still ongoing inside the tunnel."


At a separate South Portal tunnel -- where preparations for the suspected coming test have appeared most evident -- it looked on Thursday like all crates had been removed from the entrance, according to Hansen. Still, "there is no evidence to suggest that the tunnel has been sealed in preparation for a detonation," he said.

This article was published in Global Security Newswire, which is produced independently by National Journal Group under contract with the Nuclear Threat Initiative. NTI is a nonprofit, nonpartisan group working to reduce global threats from nuclear, biological, and chemical weapons.

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