December 14, 2018 09:58
North Korea's nuclear test site in Punggye-ri may not have been completely destroyed as the regime claimed in May, the website 38 North at Johns Hopkins University said on Wednesday.
The North blew up the Punggye-ri nuclear test site as part of its denuclearization process but admitted only a few reporters and no experts to witness the explosions from a distance.
"The extent of the destruction of those areas irrespective of North Korea's closing of the tunnel portals remains unclear," the website said based on a comparison of satellite images shot on Oct. 31 and Nov. 30.
"Commercial satellite imagery from late November shows that the two largest buildings at the Command Center remain intact..., as do various nearby support facilities for personnel and security forces."
"Approximately two-dozen personnel were also visible onsite... providing additional evidence that the test site has not been fully abandoned," it added.
"The roads throughout the area remain well maintained, and vehicle tracking has been evident on the main road leading to the test area where patchy snow was present," it said.
"This suggests the site may only be mothballed, with reactivation possible. There are no guarantees that North Korea would not resume testing at Punggye-ri or other locations if the current thawing of the political atmosphere ends."
Earlier, the U.S. State Department said that North Korean leader Kim Jong-un called for a visit by inspectors to verify the "irreversible dismantlement" of the test site when Secretary of State Mike Pompeo visited Pyongyang on Oct. 7. But there has been no progress as the U.S.-North Korea talks hit stalemate.
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