North Korea pledges to permit inspections of nuclear site

Pompeo described his fourth visit to the secretive dictatorship as “successful,” though aides acknowledge denuclearization may not be imminent.

By: Batya Jerenberg, World Israel News

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo had reason to be happy Sunday as he left North Korea after meeting its leader, Kim Jong-un, as he had in hand a pledge that inspectors would be allowed in to a major nuclear testing site that the North had claimed to have blown up in May.

The Punggye-ri site is a tunnel complex where the country conducts all its nuclear tests. Certain foreign journalists had been allowed to watch the North Koreans use explosives to destroy tunnels, observation facilities and other buildings in the remote mountain area, but no independent nuclear monitors had been allowed to verify the proceedings.

It was therefore conceivable that the explosives were only set to destroy the tunnel entrances, making the close-down easily reversed.

If professional nuclear inspectors were allowed inside, they would not only be able to tell how much of the tunnels were destroyed, they could also take samples indicating how powerful the tested bombs were.

This would indicate to the world whether Pyongyang was telling the truth last September when it claimed to have detonated a much more destructive hydrogen bomb.

This is not something that North Korea would like anyone to know, and indeed, the State Department’s statement on the matter did not say who the inspectors would be.

But Pompeo focused on the positive after meeting with South Korea’s president, Moon Jae-in immediately following his departure from the northern part of the peninsula.

“We continue to make progress on agreements made at [the] Singapore Summit,” he tweeted, and also described his meeting as “a great, great visit.” The State Department confirmed that the two men had also discussed having a second summit between the American and North Korean leaders, although no date was set and more progress in denuclearization would seemingly have to be made before President Trump gives such a public relations prize to Kim.

According to the South Korean presidential spokesman, the two men did discuss concrete steps that Pyongyang would take in this direction, as well as “corresponding” steps that the United States would make to encourage Kim further.

Such steps by North Korea could include giving solid numbers on its inventory of nuclear weapons and missiles, as well as information regarding its launching sites and production facilities.

In exchange, the US could gradually lift the severe trade sanctions it has in place that are crippling North Korea’s economy. Another measure it could take would be to formally end the Korean War with a peace treaty, which the North Koreans have repeatedly demanded as a way to begin serious negotiations.