North Korea building border ‘wall’, satellite images reveal

North Korea is building sections of what appears to be a wall in several places near its border with South Korea, new satellite images reveal.

Images analysed by BBC Verify also show that land inside the Demilitarised Zone (DMZ) has been cleared, which experts say could be a violation of the long-standing truce with South Korea.

The DMZ is a 4km (2.5 miles) wide buffer zone between North and South Korea, who are still technically at war having never signed a peace treaty. The DMZ is split in two, with each side controlled by the respective nations.

This recent activity is “unusual”, according to experts, and comes at a time of rising tensions between the two countries.

“At this point we can only speculate that North Korea is looking to strengthen its military presence and fortifications along the border,” says Shreyas Reddy, a correspondent at the specialist site NK News, based in Seoul.

BBC Verify commissioned high-resolution satellite imagery of a 7km stretch of the border as part of a project to look at changes North Korea was making to the area.

These images appear to show at least three sections where barriers have been erected near the DMZ, covering a total of about 1km close to the eastern end of the border.

Two satellite images showing the construction of what appears to be a wall near the North Korean border

It’s possible that there has been further barrier construction along other stretches of the border.

The exact date construction began is unclear due to a lack of previous high-resolution imagery in the area. However, these structures were not visible in an image captured in November 2023.

“My personal assessment is that this is the first time they’ve ever built a barrier in the sense of separating places from each other,” Dr Uk Yang, a military and defence expert at Seoul’s Asan Institute for Policy Studies told the BBC.

“Back in the 1990s, North Korea had set up the anti-tank walls to deter the advance of tanks in case war broke out. But recently, North Korea has been setting up walls 2-3m high, and they don’t look like the anti-tank walls,” Dr Yang says.

“The shape of the walls suggests that they are not just obstacles [for tanks], but are intended to divide an area,” adds Dr Yang, who reviewed the satellite images.

There is also evidence of land clearance within the North Korean side of the DMZ.

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