North Korea's demolition of its only nuclear test site may have just been a show for the cameras

  • North Korea recently claimed to have destroyed its only nuclear test site and let journalists record the process, but intelligence assessments suggest this may have just been a show for the cameras.
  • The explosions at the tunnels of the mountainous Punggye-ri test site appeared to have been “too small” to have collapsed them in a significant way, according to an international arms control official.
  • Despite such concerns, President Donald Trump on Friday said his on-again, off-again meeting with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un is moving forward and will take place on June 12 in Singapore.

North Korea recently claimed to have destroyed its only nuclear test site and let journalists record the process, but intelligence assessments suggest this may have just been a show for the cameras.

North Korea’s demolition of the site was seemingly a major step toward denuclearization and Pyongyang hoped it would show the US that it takes the process seriously. But many were sceptical of whether North Korea properly dismantled its test site, given that no weapons inspectors or nonproliferation experts were allowed to observe its destruction.

Moreover, the journalists invited lacked the expertise to provide verification, which some of them were quite vocal about after they watched the site’s supposed demolition.

“The problem is, this is a group of journalists,” CBS’s Ben Tracy, who was one of the repoters North Korea invited to watch, said at the time. “Nobody there is a nuclear expert, so we have no way of knowing if what they did in front of us actually does render that site completely unusable, or if it simply just destroyed the entrances to these tunnels that could then eventually be fixed.”

Now, US intelligence and international arms control officials have reportedly said it may have all been a charade.

The explosions at the tunnels of the mountainous Punggye-ri test site appeared to have been “too small” to have collapsed them in a significant way, an international arms control official told CNN.

“The fact that journalists were reportedly only around 500 meters from the explosions is a good indication that these were small blasts. And the amount of dust leads us to believe that they were quite superficial,” the official added.

According to CNN’s report, US intelligence assessments also found the explosions weren’t strong enough to truly destroy the tunnels. The assessments are based on anaylsis from seismic sensors in the region.

When Business Insider recently asked an explosives expert to provide an assessment of the images and footage surrounding the test site’s alleged destruction, she said there was little she could discern from the materials.

“I can’t tell much from these pictures, which, of course, is the reason for journalists only,” Jimmie Oxley, a professor at the University of Rhode Island, said in late May.

In short, it seems North Korea’s most substantial step toward denuclearization may have been a sham.

Despite such concerns, President Donald Trump on Friday said his on-again, off-again meeting with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un is moving forward and will take place on June 12 in Singapore.

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