Intensive tunneling, as well as the presence of equipment and hundreds of personnel in satellite images from late December, "underscore North Korea's continued efforts to maintain the Punggye-ri site's potential for future nuclear testing", Frank V. Pabian, Joseph S. Bermudez Jr., and Jack Liu, researchers with 38 North, argue in a new analytical report. According to experts at the US-based think tank 38North, personnel are rarely observed in this area of the nuclear test site and the objective of the unusual activity remains unknown.
"Approximately nine mining carts are present at the West Portal, and there appear to be new rails on top of the spoil pile", 38North experts said in a report.
According to, Ri Son Gwon, head of North Korea's delegation at the inter-Korean talks, reportedly said that "North Korea's weapons are only aimed at the United States, not our brethren, China or Russian Federation", and that its nuclear program was not an issue between the two countries.
Tensions between the US and North Korea have steadily escalated since US President Donald Trump took office.
Based on a trip to Pyongyang, Vorontsov said the atmosphere there was unstable and that the soldiers were "long been sleeping without removing their boots". However, Pyongyang is extremely serious about this scenario and is not bluffing when it says that "only one question remains: when will war break out?" he wrote.
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Trump famously pushed back against the Kim's threat on Twitter.
The U.S. announced Thursday that it has deployed three nuclear-capable B-2 stealth bombers and 200 air personnel in the territory of Guam, to which North Korea had threatened to launch a missile in August previous year.
"I probably have a very good relationship with Kim Jong Un", Trump said.
Despite all the bluster, North Korea started dialogue with South Korea, and said it now will be sending a team and a high-level delegation to the Winter Olympics. But North Korea made no promises on its weapons programme at the talks, and lashed out when asked about denuclearisation by South Korean journalists, saying it was not up for discussion.