Empty gesture?: North Korea to allow nuclear inspectors into test site
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Empty gesture?: North Korea to allow nuclear inspectors into test site

AFTER a “productive and wonderful” meeting with US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on Sunday, North Korean leader Kim Jong Un agreed to allow inspectors into a key nuclear testing site that Pyongyang said it destroyed in May.

The reception Pompeo received and the positive reports coming from state media suggest the talks were more cordial than previous visits to the North Korean capital.

As well as the agreement to admit nuclear inspectors, Kim and Pompeo also agreed to arrange a second summit between Kim and US President Donald Trump. They also discussed the possibility of the US monitoring North Korea’s pathway to denuclearisation.

Pyongyang invited international media to witness the dismantling of the Punggye-ri nuclear test site in late May. The closing involved the collapse of all tunnels at the site with explosions, blocking of entrances, and the removal of observation facilities and research institutes.

Notably absent from the “ceremony” were any independent inspectors to verify the steps would effectively dismantle the facility. At the time, the site’s closure was met with scepticism from experts who believed it could be easily reversed.

A month prior to its closure, a study suggested the site was unusable after Pyongyang’s strongest ever nuclear test in September, essentially making its so-called dismantling immaterial.

SEE ALSO: How to break the US-North Korea stalemate

Sunday’s announcement was also met with cynicism by those who see the offer as an empty gesture that allows Kim to appear like he is making concessions when, in reality, his circumstance hasn’t changed.

On Twitter, nuclear expert and author, Jeffrey Lewis, called the move, “gestures that mimic disarmament.”

While the admission of nuclear inspectors may not be the big step the State Department is claiming, the talks themselves did represent progress.

Pompeo was greeted by Kim and his right-hand man, Kim Yong Chol. On his last visit in May, the Secretary of State was snubbed by the Supreme Leader who chose to visit a potato farm rather than attend the meeting.

As talks stalled, Trump cancelled Pompeo’s August visit citing a lack of progress on behalf of Kim in working towards denuclearisation.

Following Sunday’s visit, however, state media channel KCNA reported that Kim expects “great progress would surely be made” after the talks.

Kim also said he was confident relations between the two countries would “continue to develop favourably in the future” and expected a second summit with Trump to be held “sooner or later.”