North Korea Images Show No Sign of Test Prep at Nuclear Site

The sun rises over the Sino-Korean Friendship Bridge, which spans the Yalu River and leads into North Korea at the Chinese border town of Dandong, as seen on Dec. 15. A satellite-image analyst says he has not detected any new North Korean preparations for a nuclear test blast.
National Journal
Rachel Oswald
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Rachel Oswald
Dec. 22, 2013, 11:22 p.m.

No pre­par­a­tions for an­oth­er un­der­ground nuc­le­ar ex­plo­sion are ap­par­ent at North Korea’s test­ing grounds, ac­cord­ing to a new im­age ana­lys­is by 38 North.

“Re­cent com­mer­cial satel­lite im­agery in­dic­ates that Py­ongy­ang has no plans to con­duct a nuc­le­ar test over the next few months,” writes Jack Liu, an ana­lyst with the web­site that spe­cial­izes in North Korean mil­it­ary af­fairs.

Com­par­at­ively, when Py­ongy­ang con­duc­ted its third un­der­ground atom­ic det­on­a­tion in Feb­ru­ary, ded­ic­ated pro­vi­sions for the event had been un­der way since early Decem­ber 2012.

Some in South Korea have spec­u­lated that the Kim Jong Un re­gime might de­cide to carry out a fourth nuc­le­ar ex­plo­sion as a way to dis­tract do­mest­ic audi­ences from the re­cent purges and ex­e­cu­tions that have shaken the found­a­tions of the North Korean rul­ing elite.

The latest ana­lys­is by 38 North con­cluded that while dig­ging work on a likely new test tun­nel at Punggye-ri has re­star­ted, “com­ple­tion of that tun­nel may take some time.”

However, North Korea already has two fin­ished tun­nels that could be used to house nuc­le­ar tests when a polit­ic­al de­cision is made to do so, ac­cord­ing to the re­port.

Mean­while, it ap­pears that the re­cent ex­e­cu­tion of Jang Song Thaek — Kim Jong Un’s one­time ment­or and uncle — stemmed from his at­tempt to as­sume con­trol over the na­tion’s min­ing in­dustry, Agence France-Presse re­por­ted on Monday.

“Jang in­ter­vened too much in luc­rat­ive state busi­nesses …. re­lated to coal, which drew mount­ing com­plaints from oth­er [re­lated] state bod­ies,” said South Korean law­maker Jung Chung-rae, who is a mem­ber of par­lia­ment’s in­tel­li­gence com­mit­tee. Jung was re­lat­ing re­marks giv­en by Na­tion­al In­tel­li­gence Ser­vice chief Nam Jae-joon at a private brief­ing.

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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