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NIS checking sample from Punggye-ri nuclear site

Nov 03,2018
South Korea’s spy agency is analyzing a soil sample collected from around North Korea’s nuclear test site, which Pyongyang demolished in May, lawmakers said Friday.

In a briefing to the parliamentary intelligence committee this week, the National Intelligence Service (NIS) also said it is monitoring North Korean leader Kim Jong-un’s health through a 3-D video analysis program, according to the committee members.

“The NIS has asked outside experts to look into soil that was collected right after North Korea shut down the nuclear test site on May 24,” a lawmaker said.

In May, the North demolished its Punggye-ri nuclear test site in a show of its will to denuclearize. The North has conducted all six of its nuclear tests there, including the latest in September 2017.

When a nuclear test-induced artificial quake was detected in North Korea, authorities collected traces of radioactive material in the air over the East Sea to get information about the North’s nuclear explosion.

But this method has limitations in precisely revealing the details of North Korea’s nuclear tests.

“It takes time to analyze the soil sample,” another lawmaker said. “The NIS is expected to work with not only local experts but also foreign intelligence agencies.”

The spy agency also unveiled a 3-D program designed to scan and analyze the changes of a person’s body, which has been used for years to check Kim’s condition. It demonstrated the process during the committee’s meeting, according to lawmakers.

The NIS said that Kim’s health is relatively good, though his family medical history includes high blood pressure and diabetes.

The rare revelation by the NIS appeared to be in response to criticism that the spy agency might not be keeping up with its intelligence activity on North Korea amid warming inter-Korean ties.

Yonhap