CBRN Assessment

Update: North Korea destroys tunnels at Punggye-ri nuclear test site

25 May 2018

North Korea demolished tunnels and other facilities at its Punggye-ri nuclear test site on 24 May. Source: News1-Dong-A Ilbo via Getty Images

North Korea destroyed several tunnels and other facilities at its only known nuclear test site on 24 May in a move described by the government in Pyongyang as an “important process” towards achieving global nuclear disarmament.

The dismantling of the northeastern Punggye-ri test ground, where North Korea has conducted all six of its nuclear tests, consisted of a series of explosions carried out over several hours, according to a small group of foreign journalists who were invited to the country to witness the event.

Pyongyang’s Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) reported the demolition was conducted “in such a way as to make all the tunnels of the test ground collapse … and completely close the tunnel entrances”. At the same time “guard facilities and observation posts” at the site were also destroyed, it added.

“The tunnels and all kinds of equipment, information communications and power systems, and construction and operation equipment that had been installed at the observation centre, control centre, and research institute in the northern nuclear test ground were dismantled and withdrawn,” said the state-run KCNA, adding that there was no leakage of radioactive materials during the process.

Pyongyang also emphasised that local and foreign journalists could initially see two tunnels that were “ready for use” in nuclear tests at any time, apparently in an attempt to dismiss speculation that the demolition might be meaningless on the basis that previous nuclear tests there had rendered the site useless.

“The discontinuance of the nuclear test is an important process moving towards global nuclear disarmament, and we will continue to join hands with the world peace-loving people in building a nuclear-free peaceful world,” added the media outlet.

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