North Korea's Wildly Inflated Blowup

Assuming that you’re a journalist in Northeast Asia with $10,000 to spare this week, you can get tickets to a killer show: the destruction of North Korea’s main underground nuclear test site, nestled deep within Mount Mantap near the Chinese border.


It will surely be a spectacle — the North Korean regime is good at that — but as Trump and Kim warily circle each other ahead of a possible face-to-face meeting in June, is it a meaningful gesture in the gyres of diplomacy? Well, for one thing, the nuclear site has reportedly already partially collapsed following its last use.

Second, the site has already largely served its purpose, which was to develop a nice batch of nuclear warheads. Whether Kim was able to develop missiles that could reliably carry those warheads to the United States is less certain. But that’s not the work of fission specialists in the bowels of Mount Mantap.

The big question at the summit will be: How does each side define denuclearization? We learned last week that Pyongyang and Washington still have very different ideas about this. Blowing up the nuclear test facility won’t advance either side’s understanding here.

So while $10,000 seems like a bargain to hang with Kim Jong-un and watch the destruction of a nuclear test site, the event is more media spectacle than diplomatic substance. And Kim certainly knows it.


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