March 09, 2022 11:58
Signs of construction have been spotted at North Korea's Punggye-ri nuclear test site that it blew up and dismantled in May 2018, which suggests the possibility of preparations for a fresh nuclear test.
Comparing satellite images of the site in North Hamgyong Province from March 4 with those from Feb. 18, Jeffrey Lewis at the James Martin Center for Nonproliferation Studies at the Middlebury Institute of International Studies at Monterey said on Monday that he spotted "construction of a new building, repair of another building, and what is possibly some lumber and sawdust."
This changes occurred over the past couple of days, Lewis wrote on his blog. "This is the first activity we have seen at the site since North Korea dismantled it in May 2018," he added. "The construction and repair work indicate that North Korea has made some decision about the status of the test site."
His colleague Dave Schmerler wrote, "One possibility is that North Korea plans to bring the test site back to a state of readiness to resume nuclear explosive testing."
This tallies with an announcement the North made in January, Lewis added. In a Politburo meeting on Jan.19, North Korean leader Kim Jong-un stressed the need to reconsider "trust-building measures" and resume "all temporally suspended activities" including tests of long-range ballistic missiles and nuclear weapons.
It was a broad hint that the North is scrapping the moratorium it declared in April 2018 ahead of Kim's first summit with U.S. President Donald Trump in June the same year.
In January alone, the North fired 13 missiles of various kinds on nine occasions. It described the recent firing of two mid-range ballistic missiles as tests "under its plan to develop a reconnaissance satellite."
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