April 21, 2016 - 10:42 AMT
PanARMENIAN.Net - Satellite images show that North Korea may have resumed tunnel excavation at its main nuclear test site, similar to activity seen before the country's most recent nuclear test in January, a U.S. North Korea monitoring website reported on Wednesday, April 20, Reuters says.
The 38 North website, run by the Johns Hopkins University's School of Advanced International Studies, said such activity could be carried out as part of preparations for a nuclear test, as was the case in January, or to conceal such preparations.
It said commercial satellite images of the West Portal of the Punggye-ri test site taken on Tuesday showed two small ore carts on a track crossing a road from a tunnel entrance.
"The presence of the two carts ... and the absence of any notable changes in the spoil pile suggests that tunnel excavation operations are about to resume, or have recently resumed, for the first time this year," the 38 North report said, according to Reuters.
The report said the images also showed limited movement of vehicles and equipment at the site's North Portal, where the past three North Korean nuclear tests took place, compared to images taken on April 14.
"These activities by themselves do not establish that test preparations are imminent. However, the possibility of an impending test cannot be ruled out," the report said.
"Pyongyang has clearly demonstrated, with its fourth nuclear detonation this past January, the ability to conduct detonations on short notice while masking indicators of its preparations from satellite view."