North Korea says it’s hosting a nuclear dismantling party this month. On Saturday, state media reported that North Korea’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs plans to dismantle the country’s nuclear testing site in a ceremony between May 23 and 25. The event will take place days before President Donald Trump meets North Korean leader Kim Jong Un in Singapore on June 12 for the pair’s much-hyped summit, where they will discuss a potential deal and items such as sanctions and North Korea’s nuclear program.
“The Nuclear Weapon Institute and other concerned institutions are taking technical measures for dismantling the northern nuclear test ground of the DPRK in order to ensure transparency of discontinuance of the nuclear test,” the announcement said. (DPRK is the acronym for North Korea’s full name, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.)
State news agency KCNA reported that explosions will be used to collapse tunnels at the site to completely block entries and all observation facilities, research institutes, and guard unit structures on the ground. Guards and researchers will also be withdrawn from the site, and the surrounding test ground area will be closed.
North Korea also says it will invite journalists from the United States, South Korea, China, Russia, and the UK to watch. They’ll get a charter fight from Beijing to Wonsan, a port city in eastern North Korea. The Punggye-ri site is thought to be North Korea’s main nuclear testing facility, and the country’s six known nuclear tests have taken place there.
Kim and South Korean President Moon Jae-in said in a joint statement in April that they were committed to the “complete denuclearization’ of the Korean Peninsula by the end of 2018, including the closure of the North Korean test site. Kim reportedly said that he would end his country’s nuclear program if the US promised never to invade the country.
It would be a very big deal if North Korea put an end to its nuclear weapons program — but as Vox’s Alex Ward pointed out recently, there’s reason to be skeptical. Laura Rosenberger, the National Security Council director for Korea and China under the Obama administration, pointed out that, from North Korea, this kind of promise isn’t new. After multilateral talks in 2005, for example, America promised not to attack or invade North Korea in exchange for Pyongyang “abandoning all nuclear weapons and existing nuclear programs.”
Not to be Debbie downer again, but - from the 2005 Joint Statement:— Laura Rosenberger (@rosenbergerlm) April 29, 2018
"The United States affirmed that it... has no intention to attack or invade the DPRK with nuclear or conventional weapons."
"The DPRK committed to abandoning all nuclear weapons and existing nuclear programs" https://t.co/gVFzNG7fLV
Ward also notes there are questions as to whether North Korea’s nuclear testing site even works anymore:
There’s even more reason to doubt North Korea’s sincerity. It turns out that the specific nuclear test site Kim said he would shut down — where all of North Korea’s nuclear tests have taken place since 2006 — may already be useless. Last September, Kim tested a nuclear weapon seven times stronger than the one the US dropped on Hiroshima in 1945 at the site. Afterward, tunnels reportedly collapsed at the site, killing hundreds of workers and rendering it inoperable. If that’s true, Kim’s big concession to close down the site seems like nothing more than an empty gesture.
The summit’s coming
Trump this week announced that he will meet with Kim in Singapore on June 12 in what he predicted on Twitter could be a “very special moment for World Peace!” He also thanked Kim for being “excellent” in releasing three American captives.
The highly anticipated meeting between Kim Jong Un and myself will take place in Singapore on June 12th. We will both try to make it a very special moment for World Peace!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) May 10, 2018
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said at a joint press conference with South Korean Foreign Minister Kang Kyung-wha in Washington on Friday that his recent talks with Kim were “warm” and “substantive” and that they’re in “complete agreement” about their objectives. “We have a shared vision for what we hope, when this process is completed, the Korean Peninsula looks like,” Pompeo said.