North Korea Images Show No Sign of Test Prep at Nuclear Site

The sun rises over the Sino-Korean Friendship Bridge, which spans the Yalu River and leads into North Korea at the Chinese border town of Dandong, as seen on Dec. 15. A satellite-image analyst says he has not detected any new North Korean preparations for a nuclear test blast (Mark Ralston/AFP/Getty Images).
The sun rises over the Sino-Korean Friendship Bridge, which spans the Yalu River and leads into North Korea at the Chinese border town of Dandong, as seen on Dec. 15. A satellite-image analyst says he has not detected any new North Korean preparations for a nuclear test blast (Mark Ralston/AFP/Getty Images).

No preparations for another underground nuclear explosion are apparent at North Korea's testing grounds, according to a new image analysis by 38 North.

"Recent commercial satellite imagery indicates that Pyongyang has no plans to conduct a nuclear test over the next few months," writes Jack Liu, an analyst with the website that specializes in North Korean military affairs.

Comparatively, when Pyongyang conducted its third underground atomic detonation in February, dedicated provisions for the event had been under way since early December 2012.

Some in South Korea have speculated that the Kim Jong Un regime might decide to carry out a fourth nuclear explosion as a way to distract domestic audiences from the recent purges and executions that have shaken the foundations of the North Korean ruling elite.

The latest analysis by 38 North concluded that while digging work on a likely new test tunnel at Punggye-ri has restarted, "completion of that tunnel may take some time."

However, North Korea already has two finished tunnels that could be used to house nuclear tests when a political decision is made to do so, according to the report.

Meanwhile, it appears that the recent execution of Jang Song Thaek -- Kim Jong Un's onetime mentor and uncle -- stemmed from his attempt to assume control over the nation's mining industry, Agence France-Presse reported on Monday.

"Jang intervened too much in lucrative state businesses .... related to coal, which drew mounting complaints from other [related] state bodies," said South Korean lawmaker Jung Chung-rae, who is a member of parliament's intelligence committee. Jung was relating remarks given by National Intelligence Service chief Nam Jae-joon at a private briefing.

December 23, 2013
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No preparations for another underground nuclear explosion are apparent at North Korea's testing grounds, according to a new image analysis by 38 North.

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