Korea

Kim’s tunnel explosions a goodwill gesture? Not so fast

What first appeared to be a gesture indicating North Korea might be willing to dismantle its nuclear weapons program appears to have been little more than a propaganda effort for the world’s cameras.

Billing it as an exercise in transparency, North Korean officials invited international journalists to witness the detonation of their underground nuclear test tunnels at Punggye-ri — but intelligence has increasingly shown that the public spectacle may have amounted to little more than a show, according to US intelligence and international arms control officials.
A CNN crew at the remote mountain site in the country’s north witnessed explosions at nuclear tunnels 2, 3 and 4 from observation decks about 500 meters (547 yards) away. They were among two dozen journalists invited into the country to observe the apparent destruction of the site.
Hours later, the White House canceled a planned meeting between North Korean leader Kim Jong Un and US President Donald Trump, but Trump announced Friday that the June 12 summit is back on despite no further demonstrations of goodwill by Pyongyang.
No weapons inspectors or nonproliferation experts were invited to witness the detonation, and now initial assessments indicate that the show was essentially a charade.
“The explosions seem to have been too small” for scientists to have discerned any significant geologic activity such as collapsing tunnels, an international arms control official who follows North Korea closely 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 said.
Read more at CNN

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Barbara Starr and Zachary Cohen