March 26, 2018 13:15
North Korea appears to have suspended digging a tunnel at its nuclear test site in North Hamgyong Province.
"Commercial satellite imagery of North Korea's [nuclear test site in Punggye-ri] from mid-March 2018 suggests that there has been a significant slowdown in tunneling and a reduced presence of related personnel at the site when compared to just two weeks earlier," the website 38 North at Johns Hopkins University wrote last Friday.
The North had been digging at the test site's west portal since its sixth nuclear test in September last year, according to the website. "Imagery from early March had shown signs of continued tunneling excavations at the west portal, including mining carts and significant amounts of new spoil deposits."
"However, imagery from March 17 showed no evidence of tunneling operations or the presence of any personnel or vehicles at any of the support areas," it said.
The North seems to be refraining from nuclear-related activities in consideration of upcoming summits with South Korea and the U.S.
But another reason could be a tunnel collapse there. About a dozen earthquakes of magnitude 2.0 and greater have been detected at the site since the nuclear test last September.
Mt. Mantap, where the nuclear tests were conducted, reportedly sank about 3 m in the wake of the earthquakes.
A researcher with a government-funded think tank here speculated, "It's possible that the regime has decided not to use the site for a certain time due to the danger of collapse."
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