North Korea Reports Nuclear Test Site Closure

By Alicia Sanders-Zakre

Following a late April announcement by Kim Jong Un, North Korea announced on May 24 that it had destroyed its nuclear testing site at Punggye-ri.

“Dismantling the nuclear test ground was done in such a way as to make all the tunnels of the test ground collapse by explosion and completely close the tunnel entrances,” a deputy director at North Korea’s Nuclear Weapons Institute said, according to state media.

North Korea claimed to destroy the north, south and west portals to the testing site as well as barracks, observation towers and other buildings. The east portal was abandoned shortly after North Korea’s 2006 test and may no longer be usable.

North Korea invited several international journalists to witness the test site demolition, but did not invite any nuclear experts with technical training to inspect the site. North Korea could still invite international inspectors from the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty Organization to verify that the test site was closed, Frank Pabian, who writes for the website 38 North, told The Washington Post.

The week before, Han Tae Song, North Korean ambassador to the United Nations told the Conference on Disarmament that “the discontinuation of nuclear tests is an important process for global disarmament, and the DPRK will join the international desire and efforts for a total halt of nuclear tests."

The statement is a reiteration of an April 20 Central Committee of the Korean Worker’s Party resolution and may not mean that North Korea is expressing an openness to joining the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT), Joshua Pollack, editor of the Nonproliferation Review, contended in a May 21 blog post. Pollack urged the United States to push for North Korea to accede to the CTBT during upcoming negotiations.