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N. Korea steps up tunnelling at nuclear test site: monitor

Seoul (APP):North Korea has stepped up tunnelling at its main nuclear test site, a US think tank said, even as tensions cool on the peninsula following the resumption of long-stalled inter-Korean dialogue.
Satellite images showed increased activity at the Punggye-ri site, with mining carts and personnel frequently visible, and excavation waste piles growing, the respected 38North website said Thursday.
“These activities underscore North Korea’s continued efforts to maintain the Punggye-ri site’s potential for future nuclear testing,” it said.
The last five of Pyongyang’s six nuclear tests have been carried out under Mount Mantap at Punggye-ri in the country’s north-west, all of them at the North Tunnel.
After a series of small earthquakes in the area, 38North said last October that the site may be suffering from the geological condition “Tired Mountain Syndrome”.
The syndrome refers to the effect of below-ground nuclear blasts on the surrounding rock, which is extensively fractured and becomes increasingly permeable.
The latest pictures indicated the North Tunnel was “dormant” with water draining from its entrance, but that “tunnel excavation has been stepped up at the West Portal”.
Elsewhere at the site there was unusual activity with some 100-120 personnel lined up in formation in the courtyard, their purpose unknown.