North Korea’s primary nuclear test site remains “fully operational” and could be used for further testing in the future, according to a report on Monday.
Kim Jong Un made an announcement on Friday, April 20, that his isolated, communist regime would stop testing nuclear weapons and long-range missiles. He also said that the mountainous Punggye-ri nuclear test site would be closed.
“Under the proven condition of complete nuclear weapons, we no longer need any nuclear tests, mid-range and intercontinental ballistic rocket tests, and that the nuclear test site in northern area has also completed its mission,” Pyongyang said via state-run media, according to media reports.
But 38 North, a United States-based watchdog, said, “North Korea’s Punggye-ri nuclear test site, where North Korea has conducted six acknowledged underground detonations is still, as far as we can tell, fully operational.”
“However, significant new tunneling was noted at the West Portal, another area of the site, up through early March 2018. That renewed tunneling was curtailed by mid-March, but not entirely stopped through early April, suggesting that either the tunnel was completed and ready for future renewed testing or that the slowdown simply mirrored the ongoing political changes underway,” the organization said.
The watchdog said that test tunnels, which can be accessed via the southern entrance, have primary and secondary entrances that could be used for testing.
“In short, there is no basis to conclude that the Punggye-ri nuclear test site is no longer viable for future nuclear testing. There remain two portal areas located in more pristine competent rock that can be used for future tests if Pyongyang were to give the order. Whether that will stay an option will depend on reaching verifiable agreements that build on Pyongyang’s pledge to shut down the facility,” 38 North said.
The Punggye-ri site is where all of the regime’s nuclear tests have been carried out.
In an update on Tuesday, 38 North also said that “unusual activity” was observed at the test site.
“Most notably, approximately one dozen mining carts—at least eight connected in a long train—could be observed in an unusual arrangement on the spoil pile in the area closest to the West Portal. It is too early to conclude whether this display is related to Kim Jong Un’s announcement,” 38 North said on Tuesday.
After North Korea announced that it was scrapping its nuclear program, President Donald Trump praised the move on Twitter. “Progress being made for all!” Trump tweeted.
Sleepy Eyes Chuck Todd of Fake News NBC just stated that we have given up so much in our negotiations with North Korea, and they have given up nothing. Wow, we haven’t given up anything & they have agreed to denuclearization (so great for World), site closure, & no more testing!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) April 22, 2018
A message from Kim Jong Un: “North Korea will stop nuclear tests and launches of intercontinental ballistic missiles.”
Also will “Shut down a nuclear test site in the country’s Northern Side to prove the vow to suspend nuclear tests.” Progress being made for all!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) April 21, 2018