Revealed:  North Korea's upgraded nuke test site
Location of possible command bunker at suspected nuclear test tunnel at Pung-gye-Ri nuclear test site in North Korea
January 24th, 2013
09:00 PM ET

Revealed: North Korea's upgraded nuke test site

By Pam Benson

Satellite imagery of a North Korean nuclear test site identifies what could be key installations that would likely play a prominent role if Kim Jong Un orders a test, which the government threatened to do on Thursday.

The analysis of the Pung-gye-Ri Nuclear Test site by U.S.-Korea Institute at Johns Hopkins University’s 38 North blog shows recently completed structures essential to an underground nuclear weapons test.

One is believed to be a command and control bunker. Another photo shows what appears to be a radio relay system that zigzags through a valley, which the 38North analysts believe could be used as part of a communications system linking the bunker to the North Korean leadership in Pyongyang.

Why sticks won't work with North Korea

"Located about 150 meters (164 yards) north of the test tunnel entrance, the bunker, used only when a test is about to be conducted, would contain equipment for controlling the nuclear device, managing instruments for gathering test data and communicating with authorities in Pyongyang," the report stated. "The bunker would also provide shelter for all personnel in the area."

For the U.N. and North Korea:  Game on

The analysts compared imagery of the bunker site from October 2009, which showed excavation and construction activity, with photos from last year when the bunker entrance was clearly defined.

Last year, North Korea attempted twice to launch a satellite into orbit, a move the United States and other western nations claim was a cover for a test of its long range ballistic missile capability.

The first attempt in April failed when the rocket exploded shortly after take off, but North Korea said the second effort, in December, was successful.

After threatening U.S., North Korea turns ire to the South

The 38North analysis also describes the likely sequence of steps that would likely occur–based on the practices of other countries–if a test is ordered:

  • the nuclear device and trigger are assembled in the tunnel chamber
  • the trigger is connected, checked and put in a safe mode
  • test site personnel check and calibrate sensors, secure communications
  • site commander tells Pyongyang he is ready
  • final status check hours before the test
  • final order to proceed begins countdown
  • final system readiness check during countdown
  • detonation of device

The United States is concerned that a long-range ballistic missile could be fitted with a nuclear warhead and could be capable of striking the mainland, although experts say North Korea does not have the expertise to do so.

There was speculation after each of the satellite launches that a nuclear test would follow soon after. North Korea's previous two nuclear tests were in 2006 and 2009 and occurred shortly after rocket launches.

The 38North analysis would indicate the key installations and equipment are now in place at Pung-gye-Ri where the next test is expected to take place.

But whether a test is imminent is tough for the United States to determine.

"We've seen, you know, no outward indications, but that doesn't tell you much," Defense Secretary Leon Panetta told reporters on Thursday.

"They have the capability, frankly, to conduct these tests in a way that make it very difficult to determine whether or not they are doing it," he said.

Panetta added that a detonation would be a violation of international law and said the United States was prepared to deal with any provocative behavior from the North Koreans.

Joel Wit, a former State Department official who manages the 38North website, said the prospects of a new test are ominous.

"With another nuclear test that could further advance Pyongyang's weapons program, we may be witnessing the slow-motion birth of a new small nuclear power in Asia that will threaten the United States and the region as well as international peace and stability," Wit told Security Clearance.

soundoff (93 Responses)
  1. Johnna

    I'm warning everyone right now. DON'T EVER TRUST A G00K !!!!!!

    January 25, 2013 at 12:36 pm | Reply
  2. Mr Photo

    Sorry Here is a larger version https://lh3.googleusercontent.com/-bfanCjCBvCQ/UQK9BN9AJMI/AAAAAAAAAA4/w2Qq-m0xeZ0/s5084/variant-view-NK.JPG change the s(number) to enlarge or make it smaller for instance /s1000/ would be smaller and /s10000/ would be larger

    January 25, 2013 at 12:17 pm | Reply
  3. Mr Photo

    here is a larger photo of the site with an alternative view point

    January 25, 2013 at 12:14 pm | Reply
  4. nonyabidnes2

    Are we willing to settle on the notion, that the "experts say North Korea does not have the expertise to do so"? I for one don't rely on what the "experts" say.

    January 25, 2013 at 11:54 am | Reply
  5. Spencer

    The United States in December conducted a nuclear test, yet no one freaked out about that. It was a "sub critical" test that didn't result in a fission explosion but it was still a nuclear test. I am all for preventing NK from obtaining the ability but we need to be responsible and at least try to talk to them about it. Obviously what we are doing now isn't working, at least try to talk them into a responsible solution before we are forced to blow them up.

    January 25, 2013 at 11:50 am | Reply
  6. Ken Knerr

    Just remove the launch facilities. What are they going to do? Send an A-bomb by Fed-ex?

    January 25, 2013 at 11:48 am | Reply
  7. jon

    With any luck they will blow up their own country.

    January 25, 2013 at 10:31 am | Reply
  8. jeremy

    They wanna play with Nukes... send them one to the home city, take out the head of the snake and let the country burn...

    January 25, 2013 at 10:24 am | Reply
  9. andres

    I wonder when the 'intelligence' community is going to connect the dots and realize that the missle design is Iranian and most likely same with the next nuke. It gives Iran perfect cover and it gives NK oil and gold. A match made in heaven

    January 25, 2013 at 10:19 am | Reply
    • JCDavis

      Exactly. But we can't admit that Iran has the bomb because (1) we would look like fools, and (2) it would ruin our logic for sanctions.

      January 25, 2013 at 10:35 am | Reply
    • BigShiz

      It's the other way around idiots.

      January 25, 2013 at 4:01 pm | Reply
  10. JustMe

    Wouldn't you just love to be the guy that gets to be in the bunker that is 150 meters away from a nuclear bomb test tunnel?

    January 25, 2013 at 10:10 am | Reply
  11. Whombatt

    I would hope that our 'intelligence report' is based on some more detailed photographs than the one presented herein. For all you can see, we might be looking at a pig farm.

    January 25, 2013 at 10:06 am | Reply
    • US Intellegence Agency

      We can say with some certainty that this is a nuclear test site or something totally different.

      January 25, 2013 at 10:13 am | Reply
  12. Kim Jong Un

    Not nuclear test site. Pillow factory.

    January 25, 2013 at 9:49 am | Reply
    • JustMe

      Hey, little dude, do your pillows have a little tag on them that says you will go to prison if you tear it off?

      January 25, 2013 at 10:03 am | Reply
      • Kim Jong Un

        No. DPRK is a happy place free of government intrusions.

        January 25, 2013 at 10:09 am |
    • FRIEND TO KIM JONG UN

      THE UNITED STATES, NOT THE EAST ARE THE TERRORIST OF THE PLANET. I'LL BE HAPPY WHEN IT IS BROUGHT
      TO IT'S KNEES. THANK YOU SIR.

      January 25, 2013 at 11:39 am | Reply
  13. more2bits

    Will never get the Monkey off our backs until the Monkey bites someone.

    January 25, 2013 at 9:47 am | Reply
  14. Jack

    Oh, we know where they're testing missles but we aren't doing anything about it....go nuke that site and show them

    January 25, 2013 at 9:46 am | Reply
    • pbmk

      Let's see nuke a country on China's border. What Then..Think before you post

      January 25, 2013 at 10:00 am | Reply
    • JustMe

      Intelligence just doesn't run rampant in your family does it?

      January 25, 2013 at 10:05 am | Reply
  15. les

    Hey, the President of North Korea is obviously bipolar. Should not be alowed to have a weapon.

    January 25, 2013 at 9:25 am | Reply
  16. Blah blah the wheel's off your trailer

    So when was the last time has the U.S. sent an embassador, diplomat or secretary of state to NK to improve relations? Isn't that part of the skill and expertise of the United States? After all, the UN is based in the United States and the purpose of the UN is to bridge the divide between rogue states, improve diplomatic relations and promote global peace. So why hasn't the U.S. tried to get in touch with the new NK leader? Instead we've engaged in provacative military exercises to humiliate the NK government and still expect the new leader to respond differently than his dad did? I'm calling on President Obama and the eventual Secretary of State John Kerry to try to establish dialogue with the new NK leader. We might be surprise what such talks could actually accomplish, especially when NK has been isolated for so many decades.

    January 25, 2013 at 9:18 am | Reply
    • Rick

      You cant negotiate with a rabid dog, the only way is to kill them. NK is about to become that rabid dog and put down for good.

      January 25, 2013 at 10:19 am | Reply
    • JCDavis

      We are more like Darth Vader, strangling countries at a distance with our influence in the security council. We have no need for talk.

      January 25, 2013 at 10:20 am | Reply
  17. tricky dick

    If you notice they put a tarp over the site.

    January 25, 2013 at 9:04 am | Reply
    • JCDavis

      Tarps are absolutely necessary for our paranoid fantasies to run amok. They think they can fool us with tarps? We know they have terrible things under there!

      January 25, 2013 at 10:08 am | Reply
  18. Skippy

    I am so TIRED of North Korea's power plays. It's the same old thing....they're starving so they rattle their sabers and we give them food to pacify them. If they want to play in the "big-boy" nuclear game.......maybe we should SHOW them one up close. I'm joking of course, but I would let them know if they launch a missle in our direction, we will respond and their country will look like an ash tray.

    January 25, 2013 at 8:41 am | Reply
    • Preemptive Strike

      Somebody should give this bad boy a lesson.

      January 25, 2013 at 9:25 am | Reply
    • david burns

      Sadly, the US can't afford to be as tough as we used to be – thanks to Bush and the obscene amount of money wasted in Iraq and Afghanistan. We are trillions in debt right now. We can't afford another war in North Korea, Iran, or anywhere else.

      January 25, 2013 at 11:42 am | Reply
  19. Jared

    Last time I checked the United States has been the only country in the world to use a nuclear weapon against another country.

    January 25, 2013 at 8:34 am | Reply
    • tricky dick

      I do not think they have forgotten.Give em hell Harry.

      January 25, 2013 at 9:05 am | Reply
    • dave

      And it probably won't be the last.

      January 25, 2013 at 9:20 am | Reply
    • Richard

      And?

      January 25, 2013 at 9:21 am | Reply
    • Tibbets

      ...and many of us have fathers who lived because of it.

      January 25, 2013 at 9:44 am | Reply
    • Slamacow

      I'm going to sue you now for eye whiplash after they began violent rolling by seeing someone dumb enough to write one of the most played out sayings. Do you want to tell us how possession is 9.10ths of the law or we only use 3% of our brain. Save any brain percentage use joke you want to use against me please, my eyes just can't take it.

      January 25, 2013 at 10:04 am | Reply
      • Jared

        Within the first two to four months of the bombings, the acute effects killed 90,000–166,000 people in Hiroshima and 60,000–80,000 in Nagasaki, with roughly half of the deaths in each city occurring on the first day. The Hiroshima prefecture health department estimated that, of the people who died on the day of the explosion, 60% died from flash or flame burns, 30% from falling debris and 10% from other causes. During the following months, large numbers died from the effect of burns, radiation sickness, and other injuries, compounded by illness. In a US estimate of the total immediate and short term cause of death, 15–20% died from radiation sickness, 20–30% from burns, and 50–60% from other injuries, compounded by illness. In both cities, most of the dead were civilians, although Hiroshima had a sizeable garrison

        January 25, 2013 at 11:02 am |
  20. empresstrudy

    Just apply the same liberal logic as Iran and proclaim there is no such thing.

    January 25, 2013 at 8:21 am | Reply
  21. UnFred

    Gee it looks like we have all the makings of an invasion. CNN = Gov Garbage.

    January 25, 2013 at 7:26 am | Reply
  22. idiophobia

    I've seen better quality on Google maps, and this is state of the art technology?

    January 25, 2013 at 7:22 am | Reply
    • Hahahahahahaha

      No you fool. The current technology can see what the guy is reading under the tarp covering the area. Hahahahahahaha

      January 25, 2013 at 9:37 am | Reply
      • Matt in KY

        Deeper than that. They already gave that technology to the Egyptologists at UAB.

        January 25, 2013 at 10:50 am |
  23. Peter

    These are the same style of crappy photo that they used to claim the Iraq had WMD's. While we know NK is builfing and launching these things surly the US can come up with some better photos – Give us a decent photo to really prove something – if this is the best photo you can get then you need to buy a better camera – oh thats right you've got no more money. Get a better photo and we'll believe you – cripes there's even better photos of Area 51 available – oh thats right it dosen't exist.

    January 25, 2013 at 7:01 am | Reply
    • albert

      Ok, you had some sense of credibility until you mentioned Area 51. There are no space alien parts there Dude.

      January 25, 2013 at 7:33 am | Reply
      • Skippy

        Are you certain? I have a feeling there's something strange out there. And at Wright-Patterson AFB.

        January 25, 2013 at 8:38 am |
  24. John

    I have never seen such a lack of firm reaction from NATO or the US in a long time. I think with all of Europe's financial problems and the US having a bad taste of war from a decade of fighting two wars. Nobody want's to really escalate the war of words with N Korea. But like Iran I think we are also sitting idling by and watching Countries develop nuclear capabilities. Meanwhile Clinton talks about the threat of thugs in North Malyi?

    January 25, 2013 at 7:00 am | Reply
    • albert

      I think it's more like no one gives a crap about North Korea.

      January 25, 2013 at 7:36 am | Reply
    • StanCalif

      It makes no sense at all for us to do any first strikes against NK or Iran. So what if they actually build a nuke and a delivery system? Let them continue to waste their resources. It is more likely their own people will get tired of starving and suffering to support such foolishness. Pakistan claims to have nukes, but what good does this do for them while their country begins to fail? When we leave Afghanistan and have no use for Pakistan anymore, the country will fail – it has already started!

      January 25, 2013 at 7:42 am | Reply
    • Skippy

      Both NATO and the UN are a joke. We should kick the UN out of New York and let the homeless move in...or make soup kitchens....or use the building for something useful.....

      January 25, 2013 at 8:45 am | Reply
  25. U.S.M.C. 1371

    Just wait for Nato and the UN to say stop so they can turn around and say it again. Or how about another round of sanctions to give them time to try to use what ever duct taped together weapon they have.

    January 25, 2013 at 5:22 am | Reply
    • John

      Yes, and yet Clinton can testify that thugs in Mayli are more of threat then anything else??

      January 25, 2013 at 7:01 am | Reply
  26. Chuck

    Why dont we take out thier nuclear facilities they are even more likely to use them
    than Iran

    January 25, 2013 at 2:47 am | Reply
    • StanCalif

      Remember, Chuck, GW's "Shock and Awe" solved nothing. Eventhough he declared "Mission Accomplished", nothing was solved. His actions started a long, long conflict that today still shows nothing gained. Iraq is fast becoming Iran's friend, not ours! Obama strongly resisted Israel's call for us to "Shock and Awe" Iran (for their benefit). Good thing this never happened! We don't need to be starting new "wars that can't be won"! There is plenty of unfinished business in this world where we are expected to be the police. Iraq, lost to Iran and China. Get over it! We still have Afghanistan, Libya, Egypt, Syria to deal with one way or another. Just maybe Israel will calm down now that Bibi got cut down a notch or two by his own people. A distrusted leader by heads of countries that had to deal with him, but simply loved and praised by our members of Congress! Wonder why?
      Back to NK; NK is China's problem child and the West should put more pressure on China to deal with it! Where do you think NK gets all the technology and hardware from? NK has no means to build ICBMs and nuclear warheads on their own.

      January 25, 2013 at 7:24 am | Reply
  27. john

    Now that the US knows all the test site it is the perfect time to nuke them up.

    January 25, 2013 at 2:36 am | Reply
  28. Dsmurth

    Someone email Kim Jung IL #? ... If you are going to be a world terrorist with power to crush the USA, at least look dangerous and maybe half crazy. He looks like a 7th grader that got a haircut from his blind great grandma. World domination by a twinkie fed, smelly 7th grader! I am not too worried

    January 25, 2013 at 12:52 am | Reply
    • albert

      You give him way too much credit.

      January 25, 2013 at 7:38 am | Reply
    • kmac

      The internal threat of the South and NRA are greater threat to the US than NKPA. The Southern states want to dismantle the country now. Seccessionist movement in Texas. Country Judges in Lubbock arming to prepare for a revolt which he will support. The internal cancer is greater than the external force.

      January 25, 2013 at 12:03 pm | Reply
  29. Name*tightwad

    Well are ICBMs are growing old. I must say they should be tested. What better place? Maybe I ran and the rest of the world will take this serious

    January 25, 2013 at 12:46 am | Reply
  30. TM

    Had the US shot down North Korean's test missile, there would be no saber to rattle. Now it's difficult to deny that North Korea can send a nuke to the US. White House messed up, and it can only play deaf now.

    January 25, 2013 at 12:12 am | Reply
    • kmac

      How do you know we didn't. Would be brag about it it we did. If there was a failure we would tell them they accomphised something and not change a dud.

      January 25, 2013 at 11:56 am | Reply
  31. brown

    America sold out the working class. We're not fighting for her. Let the elitists send their sons' and daughters'
    to defend this corrupt empire. We're all done!

    January 24, 2013 at 11:54 pm | Reply
    • Bibi Satanau The Great Liar

      Are you nuts brown?

      LOL . . . .sounds like you're one of those uppity American patriots . . . . .now, we can't have the likes of you spouting off crapola on these boards . . . .saying stuff that might get our dumber-than-dumb American sheep thinking 'bout what's really messing them up . . . .he he he, it's us, but anyway . . . .we don't take to hearing people like you speaking out on what wrong with America.

      Heck . . . if you don't watch it, we're going to put you in debt . . . . opps, I have a file on you here and I see you're already in debt . . . oh well! Boy . . .if you don't keep yer mouth shut, we're going to drop a drone on you!

      Just stay stupid . . . watch a lot of television and be ready to do fight and die for us . . . .thar's a billion towel heads out there with thar mum-ham-mud god that needs some killing.

      Now, straighten up and act right, or we're going to take your food stamps away.

      Yipppeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee! We isralies are your masters and when we say jump . . .. you say how high!!

      Now, pass the wine!

      January 25, 2013 at 12:11 am | Reply
  32. Tembisa

    Reblogged this on World Chaos.

    January 24, 2013 at 11:33 pm | Reply
  33. farmerjack

    North Korea , fuitcake nation.

    January 24, 2013 at 10:50 pm | Reply
  34. Gregory

    Ahh satalites, you cant beat them in recon. Now the US and other western and maybe euro countries have another issue to deal with.

    January 24, 2013 at 10:23 pm | Reply
  35. thefishspeaks

    I can see it now: One night–whether it is a spontaneous demonstration, a deliberate launch, or just a couple of guys out to kill Americans...it won't possibly make any difference...North Korea will launch a missile–said by our intelligence experts to be incapable of delivering a nuclear warhead to America–and, the missile will actually make it and destroy something on the West Coast.

    The intelligence community will be pilloried and they will point fingers at the military, the Department of State, the FBI–and, anything else in their range of sight. The administration will sieze upon something–anything–to explain how this could have happened... and, how it couldn't possibly have been foreseen. If possible, they will find a convenient YouTube video to bring into the mix. The Senate will be opposed to any military response while the House of Reps will demand we turn North Korea into a glass parking lot. The POTUS will pacify the left by uttering sincere apologies to North Korea for America's former rogue-ish behavior and pacify the right by freezing the assets of some obscure terrorist group with no connection to the incident whatsoever.

    The POTUS, VP, and John Kerry (now the Secretary of State) will grimly console the nation in this time of terrible tragedy...and, the FBI will be dispatched to North Korea to investigate the entire incident as a criminal offense. Six months later the entire incident will be forgotten as the main stream media moves on to cover Tot Mom, Casey Anthony, in her run for the House of Representatives from the great state of North Dakota.

    January 24, 2013 at 10:19 pm | Reply
    • thefishsucks

      I've seen this copy/paste drivel posted in numerous places. Hillary OWNED the GOP naysayers and will become president in 2016.

      I reveled in victory when Obama won, and will do so again in 3 years. THE GOP IS DEAD.

      January 24, 2013 at 11:40 pm | Reply
    • AGeek

      Uh. Ok. You actually think something launched from the general direction of Russia has a snowball's chance of hitting the US? We're pretty well bolstered against ICBMs, doubly so those which are far less capable than MRVs.

      January 25, 2013 at 7:25 am | Reply
    • kmac

      So you advocate a Nuke war now?

      January 25, 2013 at 11:53 am | Reply
  36. BigGuyWithABigBazooka

    Great,so we know where those Koreans are building their WMD's.Time to launch a full-scale strike at stop 'em before it's too late.

    Good job America at pin-pointing the location.The intel is a great first step.But know we have to ACT.Fire the bomb's and missiles! Scramble the jets.Time to rock'n'Roll!!

    January 24, 2013 at 9:39 pm | Reply

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