After all the parades and saber rattling since last week in North Korea in response to the US deployment of its carrier fleet to South Korea, people can’t forget that failed North Korean missile test. But if you’re curious about Korea’s armory, perhaps you’d like to take a 3D tour of North Korea’s nuclear test site, all because of open source intelligence. Intelligence rumors have been flying around about the inevitability of another North Korean nuclear test, thanks to activity at North Korea’s nuclear test site that was easily spotted by satellites. If it does happen then this will be the sixth known nuclear test by the Communist nation in 11 years and a clear sign that North Korean arms development is continuing, though not necessarily developing properly.
Though it’s hard to get information in or out of North Korea, based on past experience and intelligence truly points to an upcoming testing of a nuclear bomb. The next big thing might also be a new missile, or just the opening of a new building. It’s actually not that hard to figure out where the test will likely take place because each explosion can be seen on the same seismographs used to detect earthquakes. This has helped analysts locate North Korea’s test site in the far northeast of the country, called Punggye-ri.
Using that seismic information, along with satellite images and high-resolution topography data released by both NASA and Japan’s Ministry of the Economy, Trade, and Industry, Jeffrey Lewis and his colleagues at the Monterey Institute of International Studies have created a 3D model of what they estimate are the tunnels stretching beneath the mountains of Punggye-ri. They then filled in visual details based on photos of nuclear test tunnels here in the US, and an animation released by North Korea in an article for the Nuclear Threat Initiative in December 2016. You can navigate through the tunnels in the 3D reconstruction, and even walk through them in VR.
Video Courtesy of Youtube:
According to Jeffrey Lewis, some of the reconstruction is very educated guess work, in an interview. “I can’t see the exact layout of the tunnels, but I can see where the explosions were inside from the seismic data, and I can see the bearing of the tunnel going in. It’s a heavily constrained guess and we’re making some assumptions that you dig tunnels in straight lines, and you try to build them as efficiently as possible, and there are probably air shafts because people like to breathe.” The reconstruction leaves us with a couple alarming takeaways. For one, the North Korean model of its test complex appears to resemble or to have been completely copied from declassified plans of our own nuclear test tunnels in the United States that can be easily accessed.