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Daryl G. Kimball

MEDIA ADVISORY: Head of CTBTO Describes Inspection Option for North Korea Nuclear Test Site

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New Analysis by CTBTO Executive Secretary Lassina Zerbo Published in Arms Control Today

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New Analysis by CTBTO Executive Secretary Lassina Zerbo Published in Arms Control Today

For Immediate Release: Oct. 18, 2018

Media Contacts: Daryl G. Kimball, publisher, Arms Control Today, 202-463-8270 ext. 107; Kirstie Hansen, CTBTO Public Information Officer in Vienna, [email protected]

(Washington, D.C.)—Earlier this year, North Korea committed to closing its nuclear test site and invited journalists to view the destruction of test tunnels at its main nuclear test site.

As Dr. Lassina Zerbo writes in a new article in the journal Arms Control Today, “although the declared closure is welcome, those present lacked the skills and necessary specialized equipment to assess the activities that took place.”

The U.S. State Department issued a statement Oct. 7 indicating that North Korean leader Kim Jong Un “invited inspectors to visit the Punggye-ri nuclear test site to confirm that it has been irreversibly dismantled.” To date, it is not clear who would inspect the site and under what terms.

“The CTBTO and its technological tools,” Zerbo writes, “are uniquely placed to provide adequate verification and to monitor an end to nuclear tests in North Korea.”

Zerbo, who is serving in his second term as the Executive Secretary of the CTBTO, describes in detail the technologies the CTBTO can provide to verify the closure of a nuclear test site, and, he explains the value of North Korean signature and ratification of the 1996 Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty (CTBT) for the denuclearization process.

“The path to the verifiable denuclearization of the Korean peninsula runs through the CTBT,” Zerbo writes. The CTBT has been signed by 184 states and ratified by 167. North Korea is not yet a signatory.

A large group of foreign ministers issued a joint statement Sept. 27 organized by Japan, Australia, Canada, Finland, Germany, and the Netherlands urging North Korea “to sign and ratify the CTBT as a matter of priority.”

“It is vital not to miss this opportunity to demonstrate to the world the value of the treaty and the efficacy of one of the most sophisticated and far-reaching verification regimes ever devised,” Zerbo says in the article.

The Nuclear Test Ban and the Verifiable Denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula” by Lassina Zerbo will appear in the November 2018 issue of Arms Control Today. It is available in advance online here

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Pompeo Must Seize the Diplomatic Opportunity with North Korea

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Hesitation on the part of either side at this point could collapse the fragile diplomatic opportunity that currently exists.

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The stage is set for U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo to jump-start the stalled denuclearization and peace negotiations with North Korea. As outlined in the Sept. 19 North-South Pyongyang Summit Declaration, Kim Jong-un has said he is willing to permanently dismantle the nuclear facilities in Yongbyon, as the United States takes corresponding measures, such as supporting a joint political declaration on the end of the Korean War.

The Yongbyon complex is North Korea's major nuclear weapons production site. It includes a 5-megawatt research reactor that produces spent fuel; a reprocessing plant that separates weapons-usable plutonium; and a uranium enrichment facility, among other facilities.

A verifiable shutdown of Yongbyon would make it harder for North Korea to further expand its fissile stockpile which could be enough for 16 to 60 nuclear warheads, create momentum for further action-for-action steps, and help buy time for the long and difficult negotiations on further steps on the road toward denuclearization and peace on the Korean peninsula.

As the foreign ministers of Japan, Australia, the European Union, and dozens of other states suggested in a joint statement last week, North Korea should take another denuclearization step: signing and ratifying the 1996 Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty (CTBT) and allowing experts from the CTBT Organization to visit the Punggye-ri test site to confirm its closure.

A joint end of war declaration would ease tensions, build confidence and in no way adversely affect the very strong U.S.-South Korean political and defense alliance, or the ability of U.S. forces in South Korea to deter and defend from any North Korean military provocation.

Hesitation on the part of either side at this point could collapse the fragile diplomatic opportunity that currently exists.

For further information, see the Arms Control Association’s Oct. 3 edition of the “North Korea Denuclearization Digest” available online at https://www.armscontrol.org/blog/2018-10-03/inaugural-issue-north-korea-denuclearization-digest-october-3-2018

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