North Korea Finishes Preparing for another Nuke Test
Carie Kim, Aug. 29, 2017, 9:28 a.m.
North Korea has finished preparations for a fresh nuclear test at the Punggye-ri test site, the National Intelligence Service here told lawmakers Monday.
It said the preparations are complete at the No. 2 and 3 tunnels, and excavation also appears to have resumed at the No. 4 tunnel in April after being suspended last year. The NIS was briefing lawmakers in the National Assembly's Intelligence Committee.
Committee members quoted the NIS as saying the North has been overhauling a Sinpo-class submarine at the Sinpo shipyard since late July, and there has been brisk vehicular traffic at ballistic missile facilities.
The spy agency did not rule out another ballistic missile test during the remainder of ongoing annual South Korea-U.S. joing drills, which end on Thursday, or around Sept. 9, the regime's founding anniversary, but added that no unusual activities have been spotted.
Hours later the North fired a missile over Japan that flew some 2,700 km on Tuesday morning. The NIS has frequently dropped the ball in its surveillance of North Korea in recent years, suggesting either incompetence or the North's growing ability to evade watchers.
According to the NIS, North Korean leader Kim Jong-un made 14 public appearances in July and August, far fewer than last year. He disappeared from public view two weeks before the missile tests on July 4 and 28, which it said suggests Kim is busy supervising secret missile developments.
It said the regime is increasingly cracking down on malcontents amid tougher international sanctions and expelling ex-convicts and the jobless from Pyongyang. Since the latest UN Security Council resolution, the regime has been tightening controls, including stepping up indoctrination through the media, it added.