According to Geoffrey Lewis, a weapons expert and professor at the Middlebury Institute for International Studies, an April 3 image from Planet shows a new so-called transverse tunnel.
“The telltale sign is a pile of dirt in front of the tunnel. It is a stone from the depths of the mountain as they dig a new tunnel,” Lewis said.
The cross tunnel intersects with one of the main tunnels behind the entrance, providing a shorter distance to the underground launch site. In 2018, North Korea blew up the original entrance to the tunnel, but likely did not destroy the entire underground structure.
This is because North Korea may prepare for “another provocative act” next week in connection with Pyongyang’s April 15 celebrations of the country’s founding father Kim Il Sung’s birthday, according to State Department Special Representative for North Korea Sun Kim. .
Kim told reporters on Wednesday that he did not want to speculate about what specific actions Pyongyang might take, but suggested that it could be nuclear tests and another missile launch. North Korea has conducted more than a dozen missile tests this year, including several ballistic missile launches.
“We are concerned that in connection with the upcoming anniversary of April 15, the DPRK may be tempted to commit another provocative action. We obviously hope not, but we’ll be ready,” Kim said, referring to the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, North Korea’s official name.
Kim reiterated that the US had publicly and privately conveyed a message to North Korea that it was ready for diplomatic engagement, but he said the US had not yet received a response.
North Korea recently resumed tunneling and building work at its underground nuclear test site, five US officials said. Commercially available satellite imagery has shown some signs of activity on the surface of Pyongyang’s remote nuclear test site, Pyongyang.
It is not yet clear how soon the regime will be able to test the device on site, officials said, as it depends on the pace of activity.
Preparations for a possible underground nuclear test began after North Korea tested its first suspected ICBM since 2017 last month.
“We remain concerned about the North Koreans – their attempts to continue to improve their nuclear capabilities, as well as ballistic missiles,” Pentagon spokesman John Kirby told reporters on Tuesday. Kirby declined to elaborate on what he meant about the regime’s nuclear capability.
Officials told CNN that U.S. and allied intelligence agencies estimate that excavations are underway in previously closed areas of the underground tunnels, which will be critical to resuming underground nuclear testing.
North Korea has conducted six nuclear tests at a test site north of Pyongyang, the most recent and powerful of which was conducted in September 2017.
There are also indications that North Korea’s next ballistic missile test could take place as early as the next few weeks, one official said, though he did not give reasons behind that assessment, and US officials say they believe Kim is likely to resume missile testing. nuclear weapon.
The US intelligence community estimates that North Korea may be ready to conduct nuclear tests this year, according to the director of national intelligence’s annual threat assessment report released last month. The DNI said the nuclear and long-range missile tests are “laying the groundwork for rising tensions” on the part of the regime.
The Defense Department is considering a package of military responses to North Korea’s recent test of an advanced ICBM that could range from flying bombers or sailing warships in the region to boosting drills and training, according to Defense Department officials. Japan and South Korea are being consulted on a potential solution, officials said, and it could be part of any show of force that is decided upon.
North Korea reports that the missile had a maximum altitude of 3,905 miles and a range of 681 miles with a flight time of 68 minutes.
The rocket test was accompanied by a Hollywood-style edited video with soundtrack and footage featuring Kim.