North Korea appears to be expanding work at its nuclear test site to include a second tunnel, a US-based think tank said Thursday, as South Korean and US officials said North Korea could conduct a nuclear test any day.
Preparatory work on tunnel No. 3 of the Punggye-ri nuclear test facility was apparently complete and ready for a possible nuclear test, the Center for Strategic and International Studies said in a report, citing satellite imagery commercial.
North Korea conducted six underground nuclear tests at the site from 2006 to 2017.
The research group said that for the first time, analysts have spotted new construction activity in the facility’s No. 4 tunnel, “strongly suggesting an effort to reactivate it for potential future testing.”
Outside Tunnel No. 3, footage showed a retaining wall and some minor landscaping with small trees or bushes, likely in anticipation of a visit from senior officials, he said.
Both tunnels had never been used for nuclear testing before and their entrances were demolished in 2018, when North Korea declared a self-imposed moratorium on testing nuclear weapons and its intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs). .
Leader Kim Jong Un said he was no longer bound by the moratorium due to a lack of reciprocal action by the United States during denuclearization talks, and North Korea resumed nuclear testing. ICBM this year.
South Korean officials said this week that North Korea was set to conduct a nuclear test “at any time” and the timing would be decided by Kim.
Asked about the report, the South Korean Defense Ministry spokesman said he was closely monitoring developments in North Korean nuclear activity with US intelligence authorities, but declined to do any further. comment.
South Korean Foreign Minister Park Jin said Monday after talks with US Secretary of State Antony Blinken in Washington that any provocation by North Korea, including a nuclear test, would receive a firm and united response. .
He urged China, for years North Korea’s only major ally, to use its influence.
Park also pledged to work on normalizing an intelligence-sharing pact with Japan “as soon as possible” to strengthen their responses to North Korea’s nuclear and missile threats.
The agreement, the General Security of Military Information Agreement (GSOMIA), had been the backbone of trilateral sharing of security information by South Korea, the United States and Japan.
But South Korea had considered breaking the pact with Japan in late 2019, during a time of strained ties, before a last-minute move https://www.Reuters.com/article/us-southkorea-japan-idUSKBN1XW087 from renew it in the face of American pressure.
South Korean officials said that since then intelligence sharing with Japan has not been as smooth as before.
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