Don't read too much into NK's test site destruction

Thursday, May 24, 2018

It’s hard to fault any action that will potentially reduce the number of nuclear weapons in the world, but North Korea’s destruction of a test site was likely more symbolic than anything else.

The hermit kingdom first hedged its bets by calling Vice President Mike Pence a “political dummy,” then invited journalists in to watch it set off a series of explosions over several hours at the Punggye-Ri site in North Korea.

The closing was previously announced by Kim Jong Un ahead of the planned summit with President Donald Trump, but both sides are maintaining interest by casting doubt on whether the summit will take place at all.

But what did North Korea actually give up?

A month ago, geologists from the University of Science and Technology in China presented evidence suggesting the mountain directly above Punggye-ri had collapsed.

The collapse followed a Sept. 3, 2017, detonation of a nuclear bomb estimated at about 100 kilotons, 10 times stronger than any of North Korea’s previous five tests. The American bomb at Hiroshima was 15 kilotons by comparison.

The geologists noted four earthquakes in the weeks following the September tests, the first a 6.3 magnitude about eight minutes after the explosion, which caused the collapse, the said.

No radiation was found along North Korea’s border with China, but they’re keeping an eye on it. The test site is only 60 miles from the border, and previous tests have triggered seismic events as well as evacuations of Chinese schools and workplaces.

It’s been nearly 73 years since that Hiroshima bomb was detonated, and it took 65 years for North and South Korea to announce plans to officially declare the Korean War over.

Those of us who didn’t feel the magnitude of those events personally need to keep history in mind in the weeks and months ahead.

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