By Ramesh Jaura
BERLIN | VIENNA (IDN) – UN Secretary-General António Guterres and Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty Organization (CTBTO) Executive Secretary Lassina Zerbo have welcomed the announcement by the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) to halt its nuclear testing programme and to dismantle the test site.
The announcement came six days ahead of the DPRK leader Kim Jong-un’s meeting with President Moon Jae-in of the Republic of Korea (South Korea/ROK) taking place on April 27. After the inter-Korean summit, Kim is expected to meet with U.S. President Donald Trump in June 2018.
A statement released by the Spokesperson for the Secretary-General on April 21 said: “This positive step forward contributes to building trust and the longer process leading to the peaceful denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula.” Guterres reiterated the commitment and support of the United Nations system in this endeavour.
“This is a strong signal and an important step in the right direction,” said Zerbo who heads the Preparatory Commission for the 1996 Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty (CTBT), which is in limbo for nearly 22 years. Eight Annex 2 countries must sign and ratify before the CTBT can enter into force.
While China, Egypt, Iran, Israel and the United States have already signed the Treaty, India, North Korea and Pakistan have not signed it.
Against this backdrop, Zerbo called on the DPRK to follow up on halting nuclear tests and consider signing and ratifying the CTBT along with the other remaining Annex 2 countries.
“A legally binding in force CTBT is the only way to solidify the moratorium on nuclear testing and an essential step towards the ultimate goal: a world free from nuclear weapons,” Zerbo emphasized, adding: “The CTBTO stands ready to assist in whatever way we can.”
Going by what the CTBTO chief has told IDN in previous interviews, he would be willing to travel to the DPRK capital Pyongyang any time desired.
The CTBT bans all nuclear explosions. A verification regime is being built to monitor compliance with the Treaty. Nearly 90 percent of the 337 facilities of the CTBTO’s International Monitoring System (IMS) are already in place.
The system swiftly, reliably and precisely detected all six DPRK declared nuclear tests since 2006. After the DPRK announced nuclear test on February 12, 2013, the CTBTO was the only organization to detect radioactivity attributable to the event.
In the five decades between 1945 and 1996, over 2,000 nuclear tests were carried out all over the world. Since the CTBT was opened for signature in September 1996, 10 nuclear tests have been conducted: two by India in 1998, in addition to one so-called peaceful nuclear explosion in 1974, and two by Pakistan in 1998. The DPRK conducted nuclear tests in 2006, 2009, 2013 and 2016.
The question being asked is why Kim should “give up so much in advance instead of hanging on to a nuclear test-ban and an ICBM moratorium as aces up his sleeve to give up” when he meets President Trump.
“The answer is simple,” writes Ankit Panda on BBC News website. Panda, an adjunct senior fellow at the Federation of American Scientists and a senior editor at The Diplomat adds, a summit with a U.S. president is “enough of a prize in itself”. For the current DPRK leader, “it’s something that neither his grandfather nor his father could attain.”
Besides, as the Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) reported on April 21, the nuclear tests and missile launches were aimed at nuclear muscle building. “The nuclear test site has done its job,” Kim said in a statement carried by North Korea’s state media, explaining the dismantling of the test site.
Commenting news reports from Pyongyang, UN Secretary-General Guterres said during the press encounter at beginning of the Security Council meeting in Sweden on April 21 that the “path is open for the peaceful denuclearization of the Korean peninsula”.
He wished the leaders of the two Koreas “every success in their courageous and important task of resuming sincere dialogue, leading to sustainable peace on the Korean peninsula”. Guterres also commended the setting up of a direct telephone link between the two leaders, which he hopes will “further build trust and narrow differences in understanding.”
President Moon’s office shared this view and went even a step further: “We view the North’s decision as a significant step toward the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula the world has wished for,” said Yoon Young-chan, a spokesman for Moon.
Notwithstanding these remarks, the resolution ‘On Proclaiming Great Victory of the Line of Simultaneous Development of Economic Construction and Building of Nuclear Force’, adopted by the ‘Third Plenary Meeting of the Seventh Central Committee of the Workers’ Party of Korea that took place in Pyongyang on April 20, does not refer directly or indirectly to the DPRK’s ‘denuclearization’ plans.
The Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) quotes the six-point resolution as follows:
“First, we solemnly declare that the sub-critical nuclear test, underground nuclear test, making nuclear weapon smaller and lighter and the development of the super-large nuclear weapon and delivery means have been carried out in order in the course of the campaign for implementing the party’s line of simultaneously developing the two fronts and thus the work for putting on a higher level the technology of mounting nuclear warheads on ballistic rockets has been reliably realized.
“Second, we will discontinue nuclear test and inter-continental ballistic rocket test-fire from April 21, Juche 107 (2018).
“The northern nuclear test ground of the DPRK will be dismantled to transparently guarantee the discontinuance of the nuclear test.
“Third, the discontinuance of the nuclear test is an important process for the worldwide disarmament, and the DPRK will join the international desire and efforts for the total halt to the nuclear test.
“Fourth, the DPRK will never use nuclear weapons nor transfer nuclear weapons or nuclear technology under any circumstances unless there are nuclear threat and nuclear provocation against the DPRK.
“Fifth, we will concentrate all efforts on building a powerful socialist economy and markedly improving the standard of people’s living through the mobilization of all human and material resources of the country.
“Sixth, we will create international environment favorable for the socialist economic construction and facilitate close contact and active dialogue with neighboring countries and the international community in order to defend peace and stability on the Korean peninsula and in the world.”
In view of this, experts doubt that Kim has any plans to “denuclearize”. According to the New York Times, “Caution toward Kim’s peace overtures also punctuated the reaction of officials from Japan, which North Korea has long threatened with missile strikes.”
The newspaper quoted Japan’s Defence minister, Itsunori Onodera, who was visiting Washington when Kim announced the suspension of nuclear and missile tests, saying that the move was “not sufficient” because it did not clearly state whether the suspension included the short and midrange missiles that could hit Japan.
Onodera also emphasized that a suspension was far short of denuclearization. “What the international community expects is that North Korea abandon all weapons of mass destruction and ballistic missiles in a complete verifiable and irreversible manner,” he said, adding: “It is not a time to relax pressure by the international community, but we must keep applying pressure with an aim that they abandon their nuclear weapons and missiles.” [IDN-InDepthNews – 22 April 2018]
Photo: CTBTO Executive Secretary Lassina Zerbo speaks to the press on the nuclear test by the DPRK in September 2017 and its detection by the monitoring system of the CTBTO. 20 September 2017. United Nations, New York: Credit: UN Photo/Kim Haughton
IDN is the flagship agency of the International Press Syndicate.
Facebook.com/IDN.GoingDeeper – twitter.com/InDepthNews