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Buildings, roads remain intact at N.K. nuclear test site: 38 North

All Headlines 06:38 December 13, 2018

WASHINGTON, Dec. 12 (Yonhap) -- North Korea's nuclear test site may not have been completely abandoned, a U.S. website monitoring the country said Wednesday, citing satellite imagery of well-preserved buildings and roads at the site.

According to 38 North, a project of the Washington-based Stimson Center think tank, the nuclear test site in Punggye-ri appears at least partly active despite the demolition of tunnel portals in May.

That suggests the site could be reused should the regime in Pyongyang decide to do so, it said in an article on the website.

"In addition to reclamation activities in the Main Administrative Support Area, which was previously demolished, commercial satellite imagery from late November shows that the two largest buildings at the Command Center remain intact, as do various nearby support facilities for personnel and security forces," the article said.

"This suggests the site may only be mothballed, with reactivation possible."

North Korea conducted all six of its nuclear weapons tests at Punggye-ri before closing it in front of a group of international journalists in May.

It was a step meant to demonstrate North Korean leader Kim Jong-un's commitment to dismantle the country's nuclear weapons and ballistic missile programs, ahead of a historic summit with U.S. President Donald Trump in June.

Verification has been a sticking point in denuclearization negotiations between Washington and Pyongyang, although that hasn't stopped Trump from planning a second summit with Kim in January or February.

"Approximately two-dozen personnel were also visible onsite in the Southern Support Area, providing additional evidence that the test site has not been fully abandoned," 38 North said. "The roads throughout the area remain well maintained, and vehicle tracking has been evident on the main road leading to the test area where patchy snow was present."

In his Oct. 7 talks with U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, Kim invited inspectors to visit the site to confirm that it has been "irreversibly" dismantled, according to a readout of the meeting.

No follow-up steps have yet been reported.

hague@yna.co.kr
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