No signs of new North Korea nuke test tunnel: US experts

A man watching a news report in Seoul on Sept 15, 2015, on the confirmation from North Korea that the nuclear reactor had resumed normal operations.
A man watching a news report in Seoul on Sept 15, 2015, on the confirmation from North Korea that the nuclear reactor had resumed normal operations.PHOTO: AFP

Seoul (AFP) - United States experts said on Saturday (Oct 7) that recent satellite photos showed no sign of North Korea preparing a new nuclear test, contrary to reports in the South Korean media.

Satellite imagery from Sept 27 and Oct 25 of the Punggye-ri nuclear test site indicate "no signs that the North is excavating a new tunnel", the US-Korea Institute at Johns Hopkins Univesity said on its closely-watched website, 38North.

The main observable activity is the construction of a new building at the Main Support Area, it said.

Activity at both the west and south portals of the site has been at a low level, an indication that the North continues to focus largely on tunnel maintenance, it added.

The North has conducted all its three nuclear tests - in 2006, 2009 and 2013 - at the Punggye-ri site in the northeastern part of North Korea.

South Korea's Yonhap news agency, quoting an unidentified government source, said the North was believed to be digging a new tunnel there in what could be a sign that the Stalinist state is preparing for its fourth nuclear test.

Fears had grown that the country might carry out a fresh nuclear test to mark the 70th anniversary of the founding of North Korea's ruling Workers' Party on Oct 10, but none was carried out.