Is Kim Jong Un stepping up to the plate in his pledge to denuclearize? On Monday, Oct. 8, U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo announced that North Korea will open its gates to let international inspectors visit nuclear test sites to see if the North is truly moving forward to denuclearization. However, no date has been set and a lot of details still need to be worked out before we can expect to see talks of scheduling a time for this momentous occasion.
“There’s a lot of logistics that will be required to execute that,” Pompeo told a news briefing in Seoul.
Pompeo said he and Kim agreed to have the inspectors visit a missile engine test facility as well as the Punggye-ri nuclear testing site – once they work out all the little annoying details.
Allowing the inspection of Punggye-ri is a good step in the right direction, especially since Pyongyang didn’t deliver on it’s promise to allow inspection of its demolition progress in May. Many feared this might mean the North had no intention of denuclearizing, and instead had only made half-hearted attempts at the demolition project so that it could still be easily rebuilt.
In a statement light on details, State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert said Kim has invited the inspectors to visit the Punggye-ri nuclear test site to confirm it had been irreversibly dismantled. Satellite imagery in July suggested the North had at least begun dismantling the engine test site in Tongchang-ri, but again, without any inspectors allowed on site to verify.
North Korean news outlets are promoting the latest meeting between Kim and Pompeo, lauding it as a success. “Kim Jong Un expressed satisfaction over the productive and wonderful talks with Mike Pompeo at which mutual stands were fully understood and opinions exchanged,” North Korean news agency KCNA said. Kim also thanked Trump for his efforts to implement the agreement they made during the June summit, according to KCNA. Pompeo said both sides were “pretty close” to agreeing on the details for a second summit.
This visit with Kim and Pompeo went much more smoothly than the last in July, when Kim criticized the U.S. diplomat for making “gangster-like demands”. North Korean newspapers filled their front pages with picture after picture of Kim and Pompeo shaking hands. But how long will this peaceful and reportedly successful meeting last? Although North Korea has agreed to let inspectors visit the nuclear test sites, there are no other details to alleviate the mistrust against the regime known to value their nuclear projects.
Is this the real deal or another delay tactic? Only time will tell, but Americans will likely be keeping a watchful and suspicious eye in the coming months.