North Korea Prepares to Denuclearize

North Korea details plans to dismantle nuclear bomb test site

Christine Kim

SEOUL/WASHINGTON (Reuters) – North Korea has scheduled the dismantlement of its nuclear bomb test site for sometime between May 23 and 25 in order to uphold its pledge to discontinue nuclear tests, the country’s state media reported on Saturday a month ahead of a historic summit.

The official Korean Central New Agency said dismantlement of the Punggye-ri nuclear test ground would involve collapsing all of its tunnels with explosions, blocking its entrances, and removing all observation facilities, research buildings and security posts.

“The Nuclear Weapon Institute and other concerned institutions are taking technical measures for dismantling the northern nuclear test ground … in order to ensure transparency of discontinuance of the nuclear test,” KCNA said.

U.S. President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un will hold talks in Singapore on June 12, the first-ever meeting between a sitting U.S. president and a North Korean leader.

Trump’s Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said on Friday that North Korea can look forward to “a future brimming with peace and prosperity” if it agrees to quickly give up its nuclear weapons.

Trump welcomed the North Korean announcement.

“North Korea has announced that they will dismantle Nuclear Test Site this month, ahead of the big Summit Meeting on June 12th,” he tweeted. “Thank you, a very smart and gracious gesture! Thank you, a very smart and gracious gesture!”

South Korea’s presidential office echoed the sentiment on Sunday, saying it shows Pyongyang’s willingness to denuclearize through actions beyond words.

However, in spite of its pledge to stop testing, North Korea has given no indication it is willing to go beyond statements of broad conceptual support for denuclearization by unilaterally abandoning a nuclear weapons program its ruling family has seen as crucial to its survival.

In announcing the plan to shut Punggye-ri last month, Kim said North Korea no longer needed to conduct tests because it had completed its goal of developing nuclear weapons.

KCNA said journalists, including from the United States and South Korea, would be invited to cover the event, to “show in a transparent manner the dismantlement of the northern nuclear test ground to be carried out”. The exact date of the closure will depend on weather conditions, the agency said.

To accommodate the traveling journalists, North Korea said various measures would be taken including “opening territorial air space”.


South Korean officials said in April that North Korea also planned to invite experts from the United States and South Korea for the Punggye-ri shutdown, but KCNA made no mention of this.

Last month, South Korean President Moon Jae-in had asked the United Nations to help verify the shutdown.

South Korea’s deputy nuclear envoy Jeong Yeon-doo will visit the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) in Vienna this week to discuss the “complete denuclearization of North Korea” the foreign ministry said on Sunday.

All of North Korea’s six known nuclear bomb tests have taken place at Punggye-ri, in the northeastern of North Korea where a system of tunnels have been dug under Mount Mantap.

According to Chinese academic reports, North Korea’s most recent nuclear test in September of what Pyongyang said was a hydrogen bomb, was so large it triggered a collapse inside the mountain, rendering the entire site unusable for future tests.

But U.S. intelligence officials have said it remains usable and could be reactivated “in a relatively short period of time” if it was closed.

Jeffrey Lewis, director of the East Asia Nonproliferation Program at California’s Middlebury Institute of International Studies, said in a blog post this week that recent satellite images had shown the removal of some buildings from the site.

On Saturday, he told Reuters that closure of Punggye-ri did not mean much in terms of disarmament, given that the United States, for example, stopped nuclear testing in 1992.

“It would, however, require North Korea to clear out the test tunnels and rebuild any infrastructure that might be removed — or dig new tunnels at the site or elsewhere. So, it’s a good confidence building measure, but not necessarily a sign of irreversible disarmament.”

Siegfried Hecker, a former director of the Los Alamos National Laboratory in the United States and a leading expert on North Korea’s nuclear program, said collapsing the Punggye-ri tunnels would be “a big and positive step,” given his belief that North Korea still required more nuclear and missile tests to reach the U.S. mainland with a nuclear-tipped missile.

However, he said the other crucial steps North Korea needed to take to demilitarize its nuclear program were to shut its plutonium production reactor, and open its uranium processing to inspection.

Reporting by Christine Kim and David Brunnstrom; Additional reporting by Lucia Mutikani in WASHINGTON and Joori Roh in SEOUL; Editing by Alistair Bell & Simon Cameron-Moore

The Sixth Seal Is Long Overdue (Revelation 6:12)

ON THE MAP; Exploring the Fault Where the Next Big One May Be Waiting


Published: March 25, 2001

Alexander Gates, a geology professor at Rutgers-Newark, is co-author of ”The Encyclopedia of Earthquakes and Volcanoes,” which will be published by Facts on File in July. He has been leading a four-year effort to remap an area known as the Sloatsburg Quadrangle, a 5-by-7-mile tract near Mahwah that crosses into New York State. The Ramapo Fault, which runs through it, was responsible for a big earthquake in 1884, and Dr. Gates warns that a recurrence is overdue. He recently talked about his findings.

Q. What have you found?

A. We’re basically looking at a lot more rock, and we’re looking at the fracturing and jointing in the bedrock and putting it on the maps. Any break in the rock is a fracture. If it has movement, then it’s a fault. There are a lot of faults that are offshoots of the Ramapo. Basically when there are faults, it means you had an earthquake that made it. So there was a lot of earthquake activity to produce these features. We are basically not in a period of earthquake activity along the Ramapo Fault now, but we can see that about six or seven times in history, about 250 million years ago, it had major earthquake activity. And because it’s such a fundamental zone of weakness, anytime anything happens, the Ramapo Fault goes.

Q. Where is the Ramapo Fault?

 A. The fault line is in western New Jersey and goes through a good chunk of the state, all the way down to Flemington. It goes right along where they put in the new 287. It continues northeast across the Hudson River right under the Indian Point power plant up into Westchester County. There are a lot of earthquakes rumbling around it every year, but not a big one for a while.

Q. Did you find anything that surprised you?

A. I found a lot of faults, splays that offshoot from the Ramapo that go 5 to 10 miles away from the fault. I have looked at the Ramapo Fault in other places too. I have seen splays 5 to 10 miles up into the Hudson Highlands. And you can see them right along the roadsides on 287. There’s been a lot of damage to those rocks, and obviously it was produced by fault activities. All of these faults have earthquake potential.

Q. Describe the 1884 earthquake.

A. It was in the northern part of the state near the Sloatsburg area. They didn’t have precise ways of describing the location then. There was lots of damage. Chimneys toppled over. But in 1884, it was a farming community, and there were not many people to be injured. Nobody appears to have written an account of the numbers who were injured.

Q. What lessons we can learn from previous earthquakes?

A. In 1960, the city of Agadir in Morocco had a 6.2 earthquake that killed 12,000 people, a third of the population, and injured a third more. I think it was because the city was unprepared.There had been an earthquake in the area 200 years before. But people discounted the possibility of a recurrence. Here in New Jersey, we should not make the same mistake. We should not forget that we had a 5.4 earthquake 117 years ago. The recurrence interval for an earthquake of that magnitude is every 50 years, and we are overdue. The Agadir was a 6.2, and a 5.4 to a 6.2 isn’t that big a jump.

Q. What are the dangers of a quake that size?

A. When you’re in a flat area in a wooden house it’s obviously not as dangerous, although it could cut off a gas line that could explode. There’s a real problem with infrastructure that is crumbling, like the bridges with crumbling cement. There’s a real danger we could wind up with our water supplies and electricity cut off if a sizable earthquake goes off. The best thing is to have regular upkeep and keep up new building codes. The new buildings will be O.K. But there is a sense of complacency.


The Antichrist’s Voting Remains Strong

Iraqi Shi’ite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr attends to cast his vote at a polling station during the parliamentary election in Najaf, Iraq May 12, 2018. REUTERS/Alaa al-Marjani

Although Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi’s list of candidates were leading the field after Saturday’s vote, Sadr’s alliance was in second place, an election commission source and a security official told Reuters, citing unofficial results.

Sadr made his name leading two uprisings against U.S. forces in Iraq, drawing support from poor neighborhoods of Baghdad and other cities. Washington called the Mehdi Army, the Shi’ite militia loyal to Sadr, the biggest threat to Iraq’s security.

As top politicians in suits voted at a fancy Baghdad hotel on Saturday in the first election since Islamic State militants were defeated, Sadr in trademark turban and robe was shown walking to a polling station in poor district to cast his ballot.

The television footage of Sadr voting reinforced his image as a maverick who appeals to Iraq’s dispossessed.

If initial results are confirmed, British-educated Abadi, a Shi’ite who as prime minister nurtured ties with Washington and Tehran, may have to form a coalition with Sadr, who fought the Americans and is one of the few Shi’ite leaders to keep a distance with Iran, which has powerful influence in Iraq.

Sadr has sought to broaden his regional support. Last year, he met Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman of Saudi Arabia, a major U.S. regional ally that is staunchly opposed to Iran.

Sadr, who was shown sipping juice in a palace in the Saudi city of Jeddah on the Red Sea coast, shares an interest in countering Iranian influence in Iraq.

Sadr rose to prominence in the unrest and chaos that erupted in Iraq after U.S. troops toppled Saddam Hussein’s rule in 2003. Armed mostly with AK-47 assault rifles and rocket-propelled grenades, Sadr’s militia challenged the world’s most powerful military as it tried to stabilize Iraq.


Sadr derives much of his authority from his family. His father, highly respected Grand Ayatollah Mohammed Sadeq al-Sadr, was murdered in 1999 for defying Saddam Hussein. His father’s cousin, Mohammed Baqir, was killed by Saddam in 1980.

U.S. officials and Sunni Arab leaders accused the Mehdi Army of being behind many sectarian killings that ravaged Iraq. The U.S. occupation authority issued an arrest warrant for him for his alleged role in the murder of a rival cleric.

Sadr has disavowed violence against fellow Iraqis and in 2008 ordered his militia to become a humanitarian group.

He can still mobilize thousands of supporters to press his agenda, and he formed an unlikely alliance with communists and other independent secular supporters to demand the formation of a government of independent technocrats to end corruption.

“We call on the Iraqi people to stage a white revolution, everybody must cast his ballot, nobody should abstain from voting, it is the last chance for change,” Sadr said in a televised speech in April.

His list is known as “Sairoon” in Arabic, or On The Move.

“Our program is about building effective corruption-free state institutions, rehabilitating and expanding infrastructures, providing essential services to the poor, like health and education,” said Jumah Bahadily, a lawmaker who belongs to the Sadrist movement.

Sadr’s support extends to Iraq’s crumbling second city of Basra, in the Shi’ite heartland in the south of the country and near the OPEC producer’s main oilfields.

“We defeated the corrupt people which have ruled Iraq since 2003,” said Mohanad Sahib, a 38-year-old engineer in Basra, who voted for Sairoon. “They are from the people.”

Some voters said a call by the influential Shi’ite cleric, Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, for voters to reject corrupt candidates was a tacit signal to back Sairoon.

“It’s correct he didn’t mention them directly but he meant this,” said Mohamed Matar, who also supported Sadr’s list.

But more mainstream politicians have sought to undermine support for Sadr in the past. Former Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki, a close ally of Iran, ordered a crack down on the Mehdi Army in Basra in 2008, calling its members ‘’outlaws’’. Dozens were killed.

Maliki’s Dawa party has also been fielding candidates in this election.

Additional reporting by Maher Chmaytelli; Editing by Michael Georgy and Edmund Blair


Korea and Iran are not Parallels and the North Korean precedent

Did you know that South Korea’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) is to the tune of $1.5 trillion, whereas the North Korean GDP is not more than $28 billion? It’s true that North Korea is a nuclear country and it can fire ballistic missiles against the US. In spite of this military strength, North Korea decided to engage in peace talks with the US and its neighbor South Korea that will end with the declaration that it would give up its nuclear weapons arsenal to denuclearize the Korean Peninsula.

The question is, why did the North Korean leader take such a decision? All the objective indicators suggest that the North Korean president apparently realized that his nuclear weapons will neither help feed his people nor solve the country’s several economic problems, but abandoning his nuclear arsenal may help resolve these issues.

Poverty and hunger in Iran

Iran, under Khamenei, suffers from similar economic woes, particularly extreme poverty which continues to increase by the day. But Khamenei does not care about these issues as he only cares about Iran becoming a regional power and about spreading Shiism among the peoples of the region, which is a goal typical to any theocratic country. He thus thinks that he can only achieve these goals by having a strong military that is protected by a nuclear deterrence mechanism to impose whatever he wants, whenever he wants. In fact, he has started splurging Iranian economic revenues on sectarian Shiite militias, moving them from one place to another and investing in any foreign political dispute. He neglected Iran’s domestic affairs and as a result poverty increased and entrapped more than half of the population. According to statistics this percentage is still increasing. This means that there are 40 million hungry people out of a total population of about 80 million.

What if Khamenei and the theocrats abandon their expansionist ambitions and decide to become objective and rational? What if they benefited from the North Korean experience, and decided to cooperate with countries of the world, instead of destabilizing global security?

Mohammed Al Shaikh

The politicized Persian theocrats are not aware that the world standards today differ from those in the past — when invasion, jihad and dominance and exporting ideological revolutions by force controlled the relations of peoples. It has become impossible to invade nowadays. Today’s world would never, I repeat never, let a theocratic state expand and act like terrorist militias, which it’s working to combat and to eradicate their culture.

The option of development

On the other hand, what if Khamenei and the theocrats abandon their expansionist ambitions and decide to become objective and rational? What if they benefitted from the North Korean experience, and decided to cooperate with countries of the world, instead of destabilizing global security?

I am almost certain that Iran would witness massive development if it adopts such a stance because of its rich natural resources. Investors will invest in Iran and develop it economically and help its citizens catch up the 21st century. By the way, first among these countries would be the neighboring Gulf states, headed by Saudi Arabia.

But such a brave decision needs a man like Mohammed bin Salman, someone with his awareness, determination and courage. Khamenei does not have the ability, the qualifications or the mindset, which is still stuck in the past, to execute such a decision. Opportunists around the mullahs are aware that any real economic development and reform and eradication of corruption will turn Iran into a civil state. When civilians rule, the mullahs will return to their mosques and hawzas (seminaries).

This article is also available in Arabic.


Mohammed Al Shaikh is a Saudi writer with al-Jazirah newspaper. He tweets @alshaikhmhmd.

Last Update: Sunday, 13 May 2018 KSA 17:00 – GMT 14:00

Disclaimer: Views expressed by writers in this section are their own and do not reflect Al Arabiya English’s point-of-view.

Iran will get nuclear weapons (Daniel 8:4)

If Iran wants nuclear weapons, it will get them

The path to today’s problems with Iran passed through the University of Chicago squash court where on Dec. 2, 1942, for 4½  minutes physicist Enrico Fermi, making calculations on a slide rule, achieved the controlled release of energy from an atomic nucleus. Historian Richard Rhodes says that Fermi and his colleagues were risking “a small Chernobyl in the midst of a crowded city.”

Humanity was already on the path to the dangerous present in 1918 when the British physicist Ernest Rutherford , who was criticized for missing a meeting about anti-submarine warfare, said, “I have been engaged in experiments which suggest that the atom can be artificially disintegrated. If this is true, it is of far greater importance than a war.”

So, when wondering about what can be done about Iran’s nuclear-weapons aspirations — and North Korea’s nuclear-weapons facts — remember this: Some advocates of the Iran nuclear agreement thought its purpose was to block “all of Iran’s pathways to a bomb,” which was President Barack Obama’s formulation when his goal was to dismantle the infrastructure of Iran’s program. Other advocates of the deal thought it was prudent to pretend to think this. The realistic purpose, however, was the more modest one of making the “pathways” longer and steeper, in the hope that internal Iranian ferments would begin to make that nation less menacing by the time it began to create nuclear weapons.

Although much sophistication has been added over the decades, the basic recipe for building nuclear weapons comes from the 1940s, and for ballistic-missile technology from the 1950s. The Soviet Union was an almost prostrate nation with a shattered society when, just 51 months after the guns fell silent on V-E Day (May 8, 1945), it detonated its first nuclear weapon in August 1949 . China was an almost entirely peasant society, with a population of 694 million (about half of today’s), when in 1964 it detonated its first nuclear weapon. In 1998, Pakistan, with its per capita income of $470, acquired such weapons.

Nuclear nonproliferation efforts have been more effective than seemed possible 60 years ago. During the 1960 presidential campaign, John F. Kennedy cited “indications” that by 1964 there would be “10, 15 or 20” nuclear powers. As president, he said that, by 1975, there might be 20 such powers. Today, sanctions can increase the price Iran pays for attempting to acquire nuclear weapons; Israel can assassinate scientists working in Iran’s nuclear program. If, however, Iran wants such weapons as intensely as its decades of costly efforts suggest, it will get them.

It is a law of arms control: Significant agreements are impossible until they are unimportant, which means until they are not significant. If Denmark wanted nuclear weapons, we would consider that nation daft but not dangerous. Iran’s regime is malevolent, but there are polls (how do you poll in a theocratic police state?) showing substantial support for the nuclear-weapons program and ballistic-missile development. The median age in Iran is 30.3 years (in the United States: 38.1; in the European Union, 42.9). The nation is more porous to outside influences than can suit the regime, which has a despotism’s normal preference for intellectual autarky. So, buying time was not a negligible goal for the original deal — or for whatever comes next, if anything does.

It is condign punishment for Obama that his signature foreign-policy achievement, the deal with Iran, could be so casually jettisoned. It should have been a treaty. If it were, it would have enjoyed more public support and could not have been erased by what created it — presidential unilateralism. Obama’s successor might learn from this when — if — he produces an alternative plan for a slightly more distant and less dangerous future.

Seventy-three years have passed since the first nuclear explosion in New Mexico. Less than a month later, there occurred the first two, and so far the only, uses of nuclear weapons. Sixty-eight years have passed since the Soviet Union became the second nuclear power. Deterrence as the basis of containment has not been restful, but has been successful. Nevertheless, in September 2012, the Senate voted 90 to 1 for a nonbinding resolution “ruling out any policy that would rely on containment as an option in response to the Iranian nuclear threat.” So, almost six years ago the Senate declared unacceptable a policy that, perhaps six years from now, the United States might have no alternative but to accept.