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North Korea's Punggye-ri site showing little to no nuclear activity

The Punggye-ri Nuclear Test Site has been mostly quiet other than some digging at the West Portal, where Pyongyang conducted nuclear tests in 2009 and 2013.

By Elizabeth Shim
The Main Support Area of North Korea’s Punggye-ri Nuclear Test Site pictured on September 7, 2015. Photo courtesy of Airbus Defense & Space and 38 North. Image includes material Pleiades © CNES 2015. Distribution Airbus DS / Spot Image, all rights reserved.
1 of 3 | The Main Support Area of North Korea’s Punggye-ri Nuclear Test Site pictured on September 7, 2015. Photo courtesy of Airbus Defense & Space and 38 North. Image includes material Pleiades © CNES 2015. Distribution Airbus DS / Spot Image, all rights reserved.

SEOUL, Sept. 21 (UPI) -- North Korea's nuclear test site showed little to no signs of activity since August despite the completion of new buildings and ongoing tunnel maintenance.

Satellite images from Sept. 7 analyzed on 38 North, a Johns Hopkins University website dedicated to North Korea issues, indicated the Punggye-ri Nuclear Test Site has been mostly quiet other than some digging at the West Portal, where Pyongyang conducted nuclear tests in 2009 and 2013.

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The images also showed two new buildings at the West Portal entrance. According to analyst Jack Liu, the buildings were likely to be used by guards controlling access to the site.

North Korea has been digging new tunnels or maintaining existing ones, given the presence of a sawdust pile and stacks of logs at the site's Main Support Area. The logs could be used as support in tunnels that require regular maintenance, and the sawdust could mean North Korea has been cutting down wood for use in either new or existing tunnels, according to the analysis. The appearance of a possible vehicle and two crates indicate maintenance activity was ongoing at the South Portal of the test site in early September.

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North Korea has recently said it has resumed nuclear operations at its Yongbyon site, a violation of U.N. Security Council resolutions. On Friday, the U.N.'s International Atomic Energy Agency said Pyongyang should refrain from conducting a nuclear test, Yonhap reported.

Secretary of State John Kerry said last week there will be severe consequences if North Korea does not stop its "irresponsible provocations."

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