Kim needs to prove his sincerityNorth Korea announced on Saturday a plan to dismantle its nuclear test site in Punggye-ri, North Hamgyong, between May 23 to 25. Pyongyang also said it will invite journalists from South Korea, the United States, China, Britain and Russia to witness its destruction.
The action is meaningful, as it would be a first for North Korea to demonstrate its determination for denuclearization. It’s also seen as a pre-emptive move aimed at getting compensation from Washington ahead of the June 12 summit between U.S. President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un.
Coincidently, U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo expressed a willingness to help North Korea achieve prosperity like South Korea if it quickly denuclearizes. Pompeo’s commitment backs up his earlier promise to Kim on his visit to Pyongyang. On Wednesday, he reportedly promised regime security and economic aid if North Korea moves toward the complete, verifiable and irreversible dismantlement of nuclear weapons. We hope the test site’s destruction will help realize Pompeo’s proposals.
But a bumpy road lies ahead. The United States made it clear that it wants to push through a tough verification process before providing a large-scale aid package to North Korea. Washington is determined to inspect all the North’s suspicious nuclear facilities, including military bases, along with other nations with nuclear verification capabilities. Uncle Sam is already demanding North Korea ship a considerable amount of nuclear warheads, materials and ICBMs out of the country.
We hope Kim Jong-un makes a wise choice. In the past, the six-party talks went down the drain because of unexpected problems in the process of verification in the complex stages of denuclearization — a nuclear freeze, disabling, verification and dismantlement. As a result, Washington is now prioritizing solving the problem quickly. North Korea must face up to the new reality. If it can reassure Washington of its will to denuclearize in one stroke and ship its nuclear weapons overseas as soon as possible, it could well receive an unprecedented payoff.
It is regrettable that North Korea did not invite nuclear experts to the destruction of the test site. If North Korea has really decided to denuclearize, it has no reason not to invite them. The White House underscored the importance of shutting down the test site and allowing thorough inspection and verification by nuclear specialists. If North Korea shuns them, it will once again face criticism that the dismantlement was just for show.
JoongAng Ilbo, May 14, Page 30