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(2nd LD) N. Korea able to use Punggye-ri nuke testing site after restoration work: JCS

Defense 19:50 October 08, 2019

(ATTN: ADDS more details in paras 8-9)

SEOUL, Oct. 8 (Yonhap) -- North Korea is believed to be able to reuse its now-defunct Punggye-ri nuclear test site after weeks or months of restoration work, though no such moves have been detected, South Korea's Joint Chiefs of Staff (JCS) said Tuesday.

In May last year, the communist country demolished the testing site, which included four tunnels, in a show of its commitment to denuclearization.

"Two of the four tunnels -- the No. 3 and No. 4 ones -- could be able to be used again after repair," Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Gen. Park Han-ki told lawmakers during a parliamentary audit, noting that "at least weeks or months will be necessary for their restoration."

A senior-level JCS officer then added that no moves for restoration have been detected.

Declaring the breakdown of its working-level talks with the United States held in Sweden last week, the North's top nuclear negotiator Kim Myong-gil said, "Whether our suspension of the nuclear and ICBM tests will continue or they will be revived will depend wholly on the U.S. stance."

The North Portal, also known as Tunnel No. 2, of North Korea's only known nuclear test site, Punggye-ri, is blown up on May 24, 2018, in this press pool photo. South Korean journalists covering the process said the demolition of the site was carried out in a series of explosions over several hours on the day. (Yonhap)

Asked about North Korea's recently tested submarine-launched ballistic missile (SLBM), the Pukguksong-3, the chairman said that the weapon does not seem to be at the stage of operational deployment.

Park also said the military is closely monitoring the situation for any additional launches and vowed to beef up the military's interception capabilities to counter such threats.

The military has conducted test-firing of some of its Hyunmoo missiles this year and plans to routinely conduct live drills, a senior military officer said during the audit.

The military had halted firing of its missiles after 2013, but resumed the tests in 2017 following a series of North Korean missile launches that year, including the test-firing of intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs)

The chairman also said the North's SLBM is believed to be a two-stage, solid-fuel missile with extended flight range. Earlier media reports said that the missile appears to be made of three stages.

North Korea did not provide details, but experts have said that the latest version of its Pukguksong missile is presumed to have a flight range of 2,000 km or longer. The Pukguksong-1 SLBM and the Pukguksong-2 ground-based missile have flight ranges of around 1,300 km.

Pointing to potential threats from North Korea's electromagnetic pulse (EMP) bombs, the JCS also vowed to accelerate the establishment of protection facilities.

An EMP bomb refers to a nuclear weapon designed to be detonated at a high altitude so as to generate powerful electromagnetic pulses that can destroy electronic and electrical devices on the ground. The North has long been believed to be developing EMP weapons.

"(The JCS) designated 55 locations as command facilities in response to EMP threats, and 18 places completed securing such capabilities or have been going through a related process," the JCS said, adding that it will push to bring forward the date of its full completion from 2051 to 2039.

This photo released by North Korea's state media shows a missile being launched from waters off its east coast on Oct. 2, 2019. The North's Korean Central News Agency said on Oct. 3 that Pyongyang successfully test-fired a submarine-launched ballistic missile from waters off its eastern coast town of Wonsan the previous day. (For Use Only in the Republic of Korea. No Redistribution) (Yonhap)


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