New satellite imagery of locations at a North Korean missile site released last week has revealed secret underground facilities.
A report by monitoring group 38 North produced satellite images which identified two tunnel entrances at the Yongbyon Nuclear Scientific Research Center – the site considered the heart of North Korea’s nuclear program — confirming long-held speculations about underground facilities at the site.
Researchers have been studying North Korean missile sites and have suspected that the rogue nation has maintained secret uranium enrichment facilities, and that some of these facilities may be hidden underground.
“While it is impossible to remotely discern their purposes, their location within Yongbyon’s security perimeter and subsequent camouflaging qualify them as subjects of interest for future inspection teams,” 38 North analyst Frank Pabian wrote.
New Satellite Image Analysis in North Korea — Underground Areas Identified at the Yongbyon Nuclear Facility: Purpose Unknown https://t.co/0j0PrIKhV0
— Jim Clancy (@ClancyReports) September 20, 2019
38 North estimates that the never-before identified tunnel entrances date back to 2002 and 2005-2006.
One tunnel is located in an area that was previously identified by a North Korean defector who reported in 2013 that there were underground facilities at Yaksan Dongdae and Mt. Sotaek. The defector did not provide a description of the facilities, but said they were designed to hide “materials and laboratory testing equipment and important systems” from International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) inspectors.
That tunnel entrance appears connected to other tunnel entrances, one of which has powerline connection, evident of electric power usage inside.
The other tunnel is “likely accessible by, and integrated with, the road tunnel that links the reactor area at Yongbyon with the Radiochemical Laboratory and the Uranium Enrichment Plant,” 38 North said.
Although the tunnels are not new construction and recent activity is unclear, recent activity has been confirmed by satellite photos taken at other weapons facilities.
On Sept. 6, The Center for Strategic & International Studies’ Beyond Parallel project reported the findings of another secret weapons base, The Kumchon-ni Missile Operating Base, one of some 20 secret ballistic missile bases in North Korea.
The base “houses a battalion- or regiment-sized unit equipped with Hwasong-9 (Scud-ER) medium-range ballistic missiles (MRBM),” CSIS wrote.
Earlier this year, 38 North had identified rebuilding efforts underway at Sohae Satellite Launch Facility, once a key site in North Korea’s long-range ballistic missile development program.
Sohae, also known as Tongchang-ri, was also used to launch satellites using similar technology to its long-range ballistic missiles.
Denuclearization talks between the U.S. and North Korea have come to a standstill, but President Trump has maintained that he has a good relationship with Kim Jong Un.