DigitalGlobe | 38 North | Getty Images
On December 28, 2017, large numbers of personnel are observed at the Southern Support Area, located south of the Command Center Area.
In October, Japan’s Asahi TV reported that as many as 200 North Korean workers may have been killed in a tunnel collapse at the nuclear test site. Also, at least four defectors from North Korea have shown signs of radiation exposure, Reuters reported last month.
In Thursday’s report, 38 North said about 100 to 200 people were observed in satellite images taken December 28 in a “Southern Support Area,” which it said rarely has such activity. And it said “the purpose of their activities is unknown.”
The new analysis of the Punggye-ri satellite imagery was done by Frank Pabian, Joseph Bermudez Jr. and Jack Liu, the 38 North website said. They concluded that the recent activity is a sign that the regime will maintain the facility.
The recent activity at the Punggyr-ri nuclear test site comes on the heels of North and South Korean negotiators meeting Tuesday at the Demilitarized Zone. It was the first high-level talks between the two countries since late 2015.
The negotiations resulted in Pyongyang agreeing to send a delegation of athletes to the upcoming Winter Olympic Games in PyeongChang, South Korea. The two sides also agreed to reinstate a military hotline and to hold future talks, although no deal was reached on denuclearization.
Also, South Korea’s Yonhap news agency reported Thursday that the Chinese President Xi Jinping had a 30-minute phone conversation with South Korean President Moon Jae-in and they jointly agreed “to continue working together to peacefully resolve the North Korean nuclear issue.”