Punggye-ri Update: Status Quo
- A high-resolution satellite image acquired on June 24, 2022, clearly details the current observable status of the Punggye-ri Nuclear Test Facility.
- There is no new activity at Tunnel No. 3. This is expected because we assess North Korea has finished all preparations for conducting a nuclear test at this tunnel.
- The construction at Tunnel No. 4 remains unchanged from our last report. This activity may be for the further expansion of North Korea’s nuclear testing capabilities beyond Tunnel No. 3, or it could be for deception purposes.
- The timing of a seventh nuclear test now remains solely within the hands of Kim Jong-un.
As part of Beyond Parallel’s ongoing detailed coverage of North Korea’s WMD and ballistic missile developments, this report presents an update of the currently observable activities at the Punggye-ri Nuclear Test Facility as of June 24, 2022. The image shows no significant developments or changes to the areas outside of the portals for Tunnel No. 3 (also known as the South Portal), from which most informed sources predict the seventh nuclear test will take place, and Tunnel No. 4 (West Portal), where road construction was previously observed.
In the latest of a series of remarks from the South Korean government, Minister of Unification Kwon Yong-se said on June 27 that “it will not come as a surprise, even if North Korea conducts a nuclear test at any time,” that “only a political decision remains” as all preparations are complete.
Tunnel No. 3
Compared to an image from June 14, 2022, featured in our previous report, an image from June 24, 2022, does not show any new activity of significance in the area surrounding the new portal for Tunnel No. 3. This lack of new external developments is expected, as North Korea is assessed to have finished all preparations for conducting a nuclear test at this tunnel.
Tunnel No. 4
In our previous report, new road construction activity to the south of the former entrance to Tunnel No. 4 was observed for the first time. In the report, an image from June 14, 2022, showed a new caisson retaining wall under construction south of the formerly collapsed portal and an access road being rebuilt.
In the latest image from June 24, 2022, there is no visibly notable progress in the construction of the retaining wall or the access road. While the purpose of the construction near Tunnel No. 4 may be for the expansion of North Korea’s nuclear testing capabilities, there have been claims that North Korea is carrying out unnecessary construction for deception purposes.
Main Administration and Support Area
Renovation of former support and storage buildings and construction of new buildings continue to be observed in the latest image from June 24, 2022. Vehicle tracks are also visible throughout the area’s courtyard, similar to those observed earlier this month.
Tunnels No. 1 and No. 2
The current satellite image shows no indicators of activity at the other two tunnels at the Punggye-ri Nuclear Test Facility—Tunnel No. 1 (East Portal) and No. 2 (North Portal).