- Kim Jong Un has signalled that he’s eager to talk about denuclearizing, but because North Korea’s nuclear weapons are so secretive, it will be hard to know if he reports them all.
- This could lead to loose nuclear weapons in North Korea unaccounted for, and could also put thousands of scientists and engineers who can build nuclear weapons out of work.
- The risk of loose nukes and nuclear proliferation from rogue scientists is huge, but has been faced down in the past.
North Korea’s Kim Jong Un has bought his way in to talks with China’s President Xi Jinping, South Korea’s President Moon Jae-in, and US President Donald Trump with a commitment to denuclearize his country – but doing so could open up the world to the tremendous risk of loose nukes and loose nuclear scientists.
Though Kim has repeatedly vowed to rid his country of nuclear weapons, the promises remain totally one-sided as no one knows how many, or where, North Korea’s nuclear arsenal is.
Kim reportedly sent a message to Trump saying he’d accept denuclearization verification and intensive inspection by international inspectors with the International Atomic Energy Agency, the same agency that supervises the Iran deal
But to do that, Kim would have to provide a list of nuclear sites to the inspectors. It will be a major challenge for the outside world to take his word for it when he announces the sites, or to scour the country for additional sites.
In the past, North Korea has agreed to international inspections, but backed out when it came time to actually scrutinize the programs.
As a result of North Korea’s secretiveness, it may have unaccounted for nuclear weapons floating around even after work towards denuclearization begins.
Furthermore, former US Senators Sam Nunn and Richard Lugar, who served a pivotal role in securing the loose nuclear weapons after the fall of the Soviet Union in 1991, write in the Washington Post that “thousands of North Korean scientists and engineers” are “now employed in making weapons of mass destruction.”
If North Korea’s weapons program ends, the scientists with highly sought-after skills would “risk of proliferation of their deadly knowledge to other states or terrorists,” according to the senators.
North Korea already stands accused of helping Syria develop a chemical weapons program and conducting spy work around the world to improve their knowledge at home.
But the senators say the problem can be managed, as it was in the 1990s. Looking to the success of the post Cold War-era, when the world dismantled 90% of its nuclear weapons, Nunn and Lugar maintain that safe denuclearization can be achieved with proper planning.
Where nuclear missile silos once stood in Ukraine, US officials visited and – together with Russians – destroyed the facilities. Today, on those same fields, crops grow.
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