North Korea has allegedly completed preparing for its third nuclear test, according to analysis of satellite images captured on the 23rd.
A government source explained, “North Korea has filled in a tunnel dug for the purpose of a nuclear test with dirt and concrete brought in from elsewhere. It has also been confirmed that a cable has been run out from the tunnel.” Exact dates for these actions are impossible to obtain, but observers say that the evidence suggests a nuclear test is drawing near.
It was repeatedly noted during 2012 that North Korea is ready for a test as and when the political timing is right, but this is the first time specific evidence of the final stages of preparation has emerged.
According to South Korean intelligence, there are currently two used and two new tunnels at the Pungye-ri test site in North Hamkyung Province. One has been abandoned, having been used for North Korea’s first nuclear test in 2006, while both the tunnel used for the second test in 2009 and one of the unused tunnels are currently being maintained.
Most military and intelligence experts expect a third nuclear test in the near future, and a majority is concerned with the type of test that is carried out. Many anticipate that it will be a device employing highly-enriched uranium, marking a step change up from previous tests that used plutonium created in the country’s experimental nuclear reactor at Yongbyon. There is also the chance that the device will employ both plutonium and uranium.