Fears North Korean nuclear blast ‘imminent’ after secret trail uncovered

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    Nuclear war fears have ramped up after a secret trail in North Korea was found leading to a giant bomb test site.

    The site, called Punggy-ri, was last used in 2017, but was blown up as part of leader Kim Jong-un's attempts to prove he was not a war mad despot. But it now appears that it has been rebuilt . . . and could be used soon.

    The secret trail starts at the country's largest-known concentration camp, Hwasong, which is thought to hold around 20,000 prisoners. It has long been rumoured that Hwasong provides slave labour to the test site, but in the mountainous terrain of North Korea, travel between the two required a 100-mile round trip.

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    Now a hidden trail across the mountains has been discovered in satellite imagery, bringing the two locations within walking distance, and boosting the odds that forced labour rebuilt Punggye-ri. The sinister discovery was revealed in a new report from the Committee for Human Rights in North Korea (HRNK) which said the regime “could conduct another test at any time of its choosing”.

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    The report also cited testimony from a guard at another camp, who said Punggye-ri was “a source of fear among the political prisoners – once taken there, no one came back alive.” Raymond Ha of HRNK said: “Nearly eighty years after Allied air forces took aerial photographs of Auschwitz-Birkenau, satellite imagery plays a critical role in documenting and understanding the core of the Kim regime's crimes against humanity: its political prison camps.

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    “This shows evidence of a physical connection between the Punggye-ri nuclear test site and Hwasong concentration camp.” Mr Bogle speculated that prisoners may have been put to work digging out the tunnels where the regime detonates its nukes, with a minimum of around16.8 million kilograms of rock removed from the site.

    The newly-discovered switchback trail is some 5.2km (3.2m) long and runs from Punggye-ri’s first test tunnel to the perimeter of the Hwasong camp. Mr Bogle, who has created a comprehensive map of the North Korea from satellite photos, said “the average person would have zero access at all to the path” due to its sensitive location.

    He added: "But it did have other possible uses. For example, it could be used to place monitoring equipment for the tests, or for guard patrols, or it could have served some purpose during the site’s initial planning and building phase. The possibility that they have used forced labour to dig tunnels up to 2km long, or to conduct repairs after each nuclear test, is a possibility that can't be overlooked.”

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    • Kim Jong Un

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