Why North Korea is Destroying its Nuclear Test Site

May 21, 2018
Catherine Dill

The following is an excerpt from the BBC.

It has been used for six nuclear tests since 2006, but North Korea says “technical measures” to dismantle it will be carried out between 23 and 25 May.

North Korea has said it is committed to denuclearisation, but has threatened to pull out of forthcoming talks with US President Donald Trump, in a disagreement over how that might happen.

At first glance, Pyongyang’s pledge to close the test site appears to be a welcome first step.

But it could indicate that it believes its nuclear programme has made sufficient progress and full testing is no longer needed. North Korea’s nuclear weapons programme also goes far beyond the existence of one site.

The Punggye-ri nuclear facility is the dedicated test site for North Korea’s nuclear weapons, with a system of tunnels dug below nearby Mount Mantap. It has been suggested the site has partially collapsed already.

Pyongyang says inviting foreign observers – South Korean and international journalists – to see the tunnels being collapsed and observation facilities removed will show its work in a “transparent manner”.

But it is not clear that experts have been invited as well – a measure that is necessary for the process to be properly assessed.

Inviting the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty Organisation (CTBTO) would allow confirmation that the test site is no longer capable of conducting nuclear tests.

The organisation, a UN-backed monitoring group that aims to ban nuclear tests worldwide, maintains a network of sensors to ensure that none is being conducted.

Its experts would be able to give a technical judgement about the completeness of the test site destruction.

Analysts will be looking for the collapse of the available test tunnels at Punggye-ri and removal of monitoring facilities.

After the ceremony, satellite imagery will be used by governments and independent experts to monitor for activity, new buildings and equipment, which might indicate that North Korea plans to resume testing.

Continue reading at the BBC.

Comments Are Closed