With tentative diplomatic talks between President Donald Trump and North Korean Supreme Leader Kim Jong Un expected to take place in the coming months, many in the United States have voice concerns that Kim has no intention on following through with denuclearization, regardless of what South Korean officials may claim he’s said. There is, of course, good reason for that skepticism, as North Korea has not only set a historical precedent for not following through on promises to end their nuclear pursuits, they’ve also made a habit of grandiose lying on the geopolitical stage.
Even officials from other Pacific nations have voiced their concerns about North Korea’s history of misleading guarantees and broken promises when it comes to their nuclear weapons programs.
While talking about nuclear abandonment several times, it turned out that North Korea didn’t halt its nuclear development in the past,” Japanese Defense Minister Itsunori Onodera said recently. “We need to carefully assess if this North and South dialogue will really lead to the abandonment of nuclear and missile development.”
If the statements that come out of Kim Jong Un’s North Korean regime can’t be trusted, perhaps actions can be, however. According to satellite imagery taken in mid-March, it would appear that the tunnel excavation effort underway at beneath North Korea’s Punggye-ri Nuclear Test Site has declined dramatically, as has the amount of personnel seemingly working there.
Following the successful test of what is believed to be North Korea’s first ever dual stage nuclear weapon, or a hydrogen bomb, last September, concerns rose about the stability of the mountain Punggye-ri resides under. Those concerns seemed to have been founded, as soon thereafter a series of tunnel collapses near the site’s north portal were believed to have claimed the lives of as many as 200 people, many of whom were there attempting to dig the first victims out of the rubble.
Since then, excavations have been ongoing in the complex’s west portal, where it appeared the regime was working to develop a new testing area following the damage to the northern portion of the test site. Progress continued at this new area, with support staff clearly operating within the site’s command center and large piles of soil appearing as the area was excavated. However, since March 2nd, the number of people working at the site has dropped off significantly and no further progresses appears to have been made on the west portal of the tunnel complex, begging the question: has North Korea stopped working on establishing a test site for further nuclear detonations?