NOAA says its new infrared satellite imagery confirms the existence of a “hot spot” in the North Korean ocean.
The agency said Monday it had confirmed the satellite image of the “hot” spot with “high confidence” that the spot is located within the South China Sea, which China has been building up since 2012.
“The North Korea hot spot is a significant addition to our understanding of North Korea and North Korea-related activity in the South and East China Seas,” NOAA Director John Grunsfeld said in a statement.
“We are confident that the new imagery will provide important information for policymakers, scientists, and the public about North Korea activity in these areas.”
The agency added that it plans to release more satellite imagery on North Korea in the coming weeks.
The “hot area” is an area that has not been observed in previous satellite images, NOAA said.
It said North Korea has built up a number of artificial islands in the Spratly Islands, the Sprataan Spratlys and the Paracel Islands, which are believed to be artificial islands.
The Spratley Islands are a series of uninhabited islands that lie within the exclusive economic zone of the Philippines, but that is disputed by China.
The South China Seas is a sea that China claims in part because of the Sprats and other islands.
NOAA said the North Koreans use these islands as a “strategic and operational space” and as a staging area for military exercises.
The North Korean government is known to build up artificial islands and fortifications on the South Sea islands.
“In recent months, we have observed and confirmed North Korea constructing new artificial islands on the Spratoan Islands and Paracels,” NOAA said in its statement.
It added that North Korea is also building up “small-scale airstrips, bunkers, and missile launch sites.”
North Korea, which has been engaged in nuclear and missile tests, has conducted two missile launches this year, including one on September 3 that flew about 1,400 miles (2,100 kilometers) from the Korean Peninsula.