South Korea said North Korea appears to be “restoring” its Punggye-ri nuclear test site, about 62 miles from the border with China, with signs of new construction spotted in satellite imagery for the first time since it closed in 2018.
“Activity to restore part of the tunnels… has been detected,” South Korea’s military said.
A commercial satellite captured images that showed signs of activity at the Punggye-ri site, including the construction of a new building, repair of another building, and what is possibly lumber and sawdust, specialists at the James Martin Center for Nonproliferation Studies (CNS), said in a report.
North Korea has conducted all six of its nuclear tests at the site, in 2006, 2009, 2013, January 2016, September 2016, and September 2017, in tunnels dug deep under the mountains, with only three visible entrances known as the South, East, and West Portals.
North Korea blew up those entrances in front of a small group of foreign media invited to view the demolition when it closed the site in 2018, declaring its nuclear force complete.
According to the Institute for Science and International Security in Washington (ISIS), the closing did not affect North Korea’s nuclear weapons arsenal or its capability to make nuclear weapons.
However, the lack of testing could inhibit its ability to field reliable and deliverable thermonuclear warheads.
With the denuclearisation talks stalled, North Korea suggested it could resume nuclear testing.
North Korea has not tested a nuclear bomb since 2017.
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