No signs of N.Korea trying to restore underground tunnels at nuke site


[Pyongyang : FILE - In this photo provided by the North Korean government, North Korean leader Kim Jong Un attends a meeting of the Central Committee of the ruling Workers' Party in Pyongyang, North Korea on Jan. 19, 2022. North Korea on Tuesday, Jan. 25, 2022 test-fired two suspected cruise missiles in its fifth round of weapons launches this month, South Korean military officials said, as it attempts to display its military might amid pandemic-related difficulties and a prolonged freeze in nuclear negotiations with the United States. Independent journalists were not given access to cover the event depicted in this image distributed by the North Korean government. The content of this image is as provided and cannot be independently verified. /PTI] Seoul, Jan 25 : South Korea has not detected any signs of North Korea trying to restore underground tunnels at its purportedly demolished Punggye-ri nuclear test site despite indications of maintenance work there, a Seoul official said on Tuesday. The official's assessment came after Olli Heinonen, a former deputy director-general at the International Atomic Energy Agency, told the Voice of America (VOA) that the North is maintaining the site as evidenced by "trails of the cars and cleaning of snow", reports Yonhap News Agency. In May 2018, the North claimed to have demolished the site in a show of willingness to denuclearise. The following month, it committed to work toward the "complete denuclearization" of the Korean Peninsula at the first-ever summit with the US in Singapore. "We have identified the reported maintenance activities at part of the facilities there, but we have not detected any signs of activities to restore tunnels," the official told reporters. Commenting on the VOA report, the Joint Chiefs of Staff (JCS) said that the intelligence authorities of South Korea and the US are keeping close tabs on North Korean activities at the site. "Since the closure of the nuclear testing site in Punggye-ri, we have been paying close attention to related activities there," a JCS official told reporters. "To date, there is no noteworthy change." In the VOA report, Heinonen cited two possible reasons for the North's activities to maintain the site, including the monitoring of any release of radioactivity from it. The signs of activities at the Punggye-ri site came after Pyongyang issued an apparent threat to discard its self-imposed moratorium on nuclear and long-range missile tests amid a protracted impasse in nuclear negotiations with Washington. /IANS


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