What are North Korean workers doing when not preparing for a nuclear test? Letting loose on the volleyball court, apparently. "Unusual" satellite images of the Punggye-ri nuclear test site, snapped on Sunday and described in a 38 North report, reveal not the expected preparations for the country's sixth nuclear test but rather three concurrent games of volleyball, reports the New York Times. Since North Korea knows when satellites zip overhead, analysts say the games at the main administrative area, guard barracks, and support area of the command center—plus an apparently unused volleyball net at the command center—were likely meant to convey some sort of message, though they aren't exactly sure what.
"They're either sending us a message that they've put the facility on standby, or they're trying to deceive us," according to one expert. "We really don't know." The games could also signal a "tactical pause," per CNN. Analysts still believe the site is ready for another nuclear test at any time. But they say much of the activity seen at the site over the last eight weeks appears to have ended. Vehicles and trailers have disappeared from roads. And though there are minor signs of tunneling, "the pumping of water out of the tunnel to maintain an optimal environment for instrumentation and stemming seems to have ceased," the report states. Still, the games aren't new: Per the 38 North report, "Personnel playing volleyball at the Punggye-ri nuclear test facility have also been identified on a number of occasions as far back as 2006 prior to the first nuclear test and more recently in February."