- Recent satellite imagery of the Punggye-ri Nuclear Test Facility shows minor activity at the main administration and support area and no significant activity at the collapsed Tunnels No. 1, 2, and 4. There is no new activity around the portal to Tunnel No. 3, but preparations at this tunnel are believed to have been long since completed.
- The reason for the delay in the anticipated seventh nuclear test is unknown. The recent failure of the Chollima 1 SLV with its Malligyong 1 military reconnaissance satellite at Sohae Satellite Launching Station may serve as an inducement for Kim to conduct the nuclear test this summer.
As with our previous report, satellite imagery of the Punggye-ri Nuclear Test Facility acquired during the past two months shows no significant changes to the area immediately outside the portal to Tunnel No. 3 (also known as the South Portal). This lack of any significant new external developments is not unexpected as both the United States and South Korea have long assessed North Korea finished all preparations for conducting its seventh nuclear test.1
Tunnel No. 3
No recent activity of significance has been observed around the portal to Tunnel No. 3 (also known as the South Portal). The apparent cables for communications, electricity, water, and air previously seen running from nearby structures into the portal remain in place. This lack of observable activity in preparation for the seventh nuclear test is expected as the United States and South Korea assessed that all preparations had been complete for over a year.2 Immediately prior to any new test, a small increase in activity is expected. However, North Korea is capable of conducting final test preparations and system checks without revealing such activity in commercial satellite imagery.
Tunnel No. 4
Except for the removal of one of the two small structures previously located in front of the collapsed portal to Tunnel No. 4 (also known as the West Portal), no recent activity of significance has been observed here or along the road leading to it.
It remains unclear whether the rebuilding of the access road and the continued presence of the small building are the initial stages of reopening Tunnel No. 4 to expand North Korea’s nuclear testing capabilities or simply a component of a strategic deception plan.
Main Administration and Support Area
Only minor activity (e.g., erection of a volleyball net, continued presence of lumber, etc.) is observed at the main administration and support area. No personnel are observed throughout the area.
Tunnels No. 1 and No. 2
As expected, the June 19, 2023, image continues to show no activity at either of the remaining two tunnels at the Punggye-ri Nuclear Test Facility—Tunnel No. 1 (East Portal) and No. 2 (North Portal).
- “U.S. assesses North Korea could be ready to conduct a nuclear test this month,” Reuters, May 6, 2022, https://www.reuters.com/world/asia-pacific/us-assesses-north-korea-could-be-ready-conduct-nuclear-test-this-month-2022-05-06/. ↩
- Ibid. ↩