Research and Analysis on the DPRK Leadership
On 2 February (Saturday), South Korean [ROK] media reported that additional preparatory activity was spotted at the Punggye-ri nuclear test facility in Kilchu County, North Hamgyo’ng Province. An unnamed sources told Yonhap News Agency that “at a tunnel in the southern part of the test site in Punggye-ri, we’ve found that work presumed to be part of preparations for a nuclear test has entered its final stage” and that “the North may conduct the test at either the western or southern tunnels. But the activities spotted near the southern one could be aimed at distracting us from the more likely place of the western tunnel, so we are monitoring closely,”
The Russian Foreign Ministry differed with prevailing predictions of a DPRK nuclear test on 1 February (Friday). Xinhua English reported that “Moscow has no verified information” about a nuclear test. According to Xinhua citing an Interfax report Grigory Logvinov said, “But in reality, we have not got information whether or not the device has been planted. . .We don’t comment on various hypothetical speculations. We are guided with the official data available, so we don’t talk about any secret decisions.” Logvinov also alluding to DPRK state media saying “serious decisions” were undertaken said “We’ve got that official information which gives us possibility to make conclusions.”
Yonhap reported on 1 February (Friday) that South Korean [ROK] Minister of Unification Yu Woo-ik told a meeting of Ministry officials that a third experimental nuclear detonation at Punggye-ri “could mean it (DPRK) is in the final stages (of making weapons).” According to KBS World Yu “stressed that the current situation is much more critical than Pyongyang’s two previous nuclear tests, noting that the third test could be the final stage for North Korea’s nuclear development” and “reaffirming that grave consequences would follow if the test is carried out.” Yu, according to Yonhap, “said that because of the greater threat the next detonation poses to national security, the South should not let its guard down and deal with the move in a firm manner” and remarked that “Handling this potential test like it dealt with the two previous detonations is not the right way.”
Yu’s remarks were published the same day as anonymous South Korean [ROK] government sources told Yonhap that “Analysis showed a camouflage net looking like a roof was placed on the tunnel entrance. The move seems to be aimed at keeping nuclear test preparations near their completion from being exposed outside.” Another anonymous official said “It seems like a disturbing tactic, similar to one that was used when the North prepared for a long-range rocket in December last year.” Of course, last December, a hullaballoo ensued when the DPRK announced it extended the long-rang rocket U’nha’3’s launch period and gave the satellite imagery analyst eyes in the sky the tableau vivant of taking apart the rocket.
Here’s an insider Pyongyang-watching baseball question: Were the nuclear test-based Party Cell Secretaries exempted from the 4th Meeting of Party Cell Secretaries, held earlier this week in Pyongyang, or did they have to shuttle between the revolutionary capital and Kilchu County?