A 3D satellite image of the Punggye-ri, North Korea nuclear test site from 2006

A 3D satellite image of the Punggye-ri, North Korea nuclear test site from 2006

North Korea’s  been digging at  Punggye-ri for some time now, and while this doesn’t seem much different from the information that was trickling out before the DPRK’s failed space launch, more and more media outlets are jumping on board with their beliefs that a nuclear test will occur in the immediate future

It should be noted, however, that the Chosun Ilbo is occasionally off with their facts and data and that the AFP article below relies heavily on their report:

SEOUL, South Korea — North Korea has apparently completed preparations for a third nuclear test, possibly within two weeks, after firing a long-range rocket this month, according to an April 21 report.

South Korea’s Chosun Ilbo said the information came from a government source. It relates to preparations for a test in the northeastern town of Punggye-ri, where the North carried out two previous nuclear tests in 2006 and 2009.

A defense ministry spokesman declined to comment on the report.

A South Korean government official said April 8 on condition of anonymity that satellite images showed a new underground tunnel built at the nuclear test site besides two others where the previous tests were conducted.

“Heaps of earth and sand which had been piled up outside the new tunnel have disappeared,” a government source was quoted as saying by Chosun.

“It is highly likely that the North has installed a nuclear device inside the tunnel and sealed it [with the piles of earth and sand],” the source said.

Since last year, U.S. and South Korean intelligence authorities have been monitoring the excavation by measuring the amount of soil and rocks dumped from the tunnel, it said.

But it has not yet been confirmed whether the North has installed cables for detonation, the source said.

“It is technically feasible for the North to carry out a nuclear test within two weeks,” the source added.

The North, believed to have enough plutonium for six to eight bombs, tested atomic weapons in October 2006 and May 2009. Both were held one to three months after missile tests.

It has vowed to launch satellites “one after another,” vigorously rejecting international condemnation of an April 13 launch that was seen overseas as a disguised ballistic missile test.

This doesn’t add much to the articles we relayed a week or two ago, but everyone believes this is going to happen in the near future, to the point where some outlets believe a non-detonation would indicate failure more than a decision to abandon a nuclear test.

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Craig was born & raised in the United States, having recently returned there after over five years in Asia. He is currently pursuing further education in the realms of East Asian Studies and Politics. Craig is an avid fan of the political, economic, and military machinations occurring throughout the Asian continent and how those turning gears affect the rest of the world. He's currently covering both North and South Korea for Asia Security Watch, enjoying shedding light on to this far-too-often ignored slice of Asia.
Craig Scanlan has 82 post(s) on Asia Security Watch