North Korea Closes Nuclear Test Site

North Korea will officially dismantle its nuclear test site within two weeks and invite international media to witness the event, according to state media. This will involve exploding tunnels, blocking entrances, and removing observation sites and research institutes.

The North Korean commitment to “denuclearization” is likely to differ from Trump’s vision for a “comprehensive, verifiable and irreversible” nuclear disarmament. This would require a “robust verification” programme by specialists, U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said. So far, there was no indication of allowing foreign experts to access the site.

Yet, many observers and analysts have long argued that North Korea’s primary objective of nuclear weapons development was to enter a new era where security negotiations with the U.S. are paramount. Kim’s willingness to close the nuclear test site represents the most prominent concession made yet. The foreign ministry said that they will continue to “promote close contacts and dialogue with the neighbouring countries and the international society so as to safeguard peace and stability on the Korean Peninsula and over the globe.”

The step to formally decommission the test site in a ceremony on highly sensitive military ground is another gesture of goodwill before the 12 June summit with Trump in Singapore. Foreign media will be welcome to observe the shutdown of the nuclear test facility, where several generations of nuclear weapons have been tested. They will be flown in a special charter flight to Beijing to a resort town of Wonsan and then travelling with a special train to the remote test site close to the northern border. The ceremony is scheduled between May 23 and 25, the report said.

Trump’s unilateral decision to withdraw from the nuclear agreement with Iran might influence the durability of any deal Kim makes with a U.S. president. It is questionable if Trump can convince Kim to trust America – again – especially after Bolton compares North Korea to Libya. Kim may not be sure of how much value he can place in negotiations with Trump. Under this condition, it is unlikely that one side will invest trust in the other.

North Korea seems to be opening up and there is a growing “sense of optimism” among state officials. In regards to the denuclearization, could that be a way towards a treaty to formally end the Korean War? This may be an objective for North Korea, however it would require some mutual confidence-building first to restore trust. Information plays a crucial role in international co-operation and in reducing the uncertainty that the states have about each other’s intentions. So far, it remains the case that North Korea’s ability to communicate it’s intentions clearly is of paramount importance.