On the evidence taken from recent satellite images, it would seem that North Korea has built two tunnel entrances at its nuclear test site, a sign that it plans to move forward with its test detonations, say experts from Johns Hopkins University’s U.S.-Korea Institute said on Wednesday. The U.S.-based think tank says that satellite images taken on Sept. 27 shows progress in excavation work and the presence of two new entrances to tunnels at the Punggye-ri site. Although the research group said it was not a clear sign of an imminent test, it just showed clear intentions that North Korea was moving forward with its nuclear program, something that the international community has long condemned.
“These ongoing activities as well as upgrades to the site’s support areas indicate North Korea is preparing to conduct additional detonations in the future as part of its nuclear weapons development program,” researcher Nick Hansen wrote on the think tank’s blog, 38 North. North Korea conducts its nuclear tests underground where it is out of sight even from the high-tech satellites of the United States, and the new tunnel entrances might signal a future detonation in a new tunnel, the blog said. Alternatively, the think tank also says that there is a possibility that North Korea may be digging a separate entrance to a nearby tunnel to allow greater traffic or ventilation. Whatever the reason may be, the think tank is of the opinion that it points to more work being put in for the hermit nation’s nuclear program.
North Korea has carried out nuclear tests in 2006, 2009 and in February this year, triggering virtually universal criticism from major countries and causing the international community to levy tight sanctions against the communist country. Kim Jong Un’s regime has said it is building its nuclear capacity in response to “hostility” from the United States, which has bases in the North’s democratic rival, South Korea, stationing close to 30,000 troops there. U.S. satellite experts have also observed progress at the aging plutonium reactor at Yongbyon, which would allow North Korea to further expand its nuclear program.