North Korea Halts Nuclear Activity, New Findings Indicate Why

Chief of the National Security Office Chung Eui-yong (left) and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un meeting at the Worker's Party of Korea in Pyongyang on March 5, 2018. Credit: Blue House (Republic of Korea)

Recently, North Korea announced that they would end their nuclear program and begin talks with South Korea. As this momentous occasion is celebrated as a march towards peace, new findings are being presented that indicates this move was more than just for peace.

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Last week North Korea announced that it would suspend further nuclear and missile tests as well as abandon its nuclear test site as they move towards building peace and economic growth. This came ahead of the summit between the United States and South Korea.

According to Kim Jong-Un, the current leader of North Korea, the country no longer needs any of these facilities because they have already completed their goals of completing the weapons.

At the summit, the leaders of North Korea and South Korea announced that they would work towards removing all nuclear weapons from Korea as they continue towards building peace. Having made efforts of letting the world know that they have nuclear weapons, it remains to be seen if North Korea will allow the removal of their nuclear weapons.

They anticipate that within a year, they can begin talks with the United States to finally put an end to the Korean War, which is currently halted by an armistice.

Kim Jong-Un of North Korea meets Moon Jae-in of South Korea at the border of the two countries. Credit: Korea Summit Press Pool

This summit represents the first time that a leader from North Korea has been to the South, further marking the significance of this moment. For six decades, the two countries had been under a tense peace that was marked by conflicts and tension between the two parties. This hope for an actual peace treaty between the countries is one of the main incentives that North Korea pushed in these talks as a trade for getting rid of its nuclear program.

Both China and the United States praised these developments as they have been supporters of peace and reduced conflict between the two Koreas. Tensions between the United States and North Korea will certainly be reduced should these peace talks be successful. China will also benefit from this peace because they will be at a reduced risk of dealing with problems from nuclear testing in North Korea.

Given the sudden change of interest in North Korea from pursuing its nuclear program to talks of peace, many wonder why this occurred. North Korea is marred by a weakened economy, limited access to resources, many sanctions, and crumbling infrastructure. Peace would allow these problems to go away as South Korea hopes to assist North Korea in developing and strengthening their economy.

While the timeline for these peace talks is not yet settled, both Koreas hope that they can begin talks with the United States within a year to draw out a plan for peace.

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A recent study reveals that another crucial reason for the peace talks and dismantling of nuclear weapons would the consequence of developing these same weapons.

Another Reason For Peace

North Korea had previously conducted nuclear tests on September 3rd, 2017. Researchers from the University of Science and Technology in China analyzed seismic activity for the region following the nuclear tests. They found that the first seismic event occurred eight and a half minutes after the test. Two more seismic events occurred on September 23rd, 2017 and a final seismic event was recorded on October 12th, 2017.

After the nuclear test, a 6.3 seismic event was registered at the location. This was the first of the five events that would occur over the course of a few weeks. Credit: Wikipedia

While their initial data on the seismic events could not give them a precise location, using multiple records of the seismic events from many seismic/earthquake networks, the researchers were able to pinpoint the location. They found that the seismic events occurred onsite at the nuclear test site.

The researchers believe that these five seismic events highly indicate that the mountains above the nuclear test sight likely collapsed as a result of these tests. This collapse means that the area must be closely monitored for any radioactive leaks. At the moment, Chinese authorities say they have not collected any samples of radioactive materials along their border.

According to the researchers, the collapse of the mountain means that the underground infrastructure used for the nuclear tests would be deemed damaged enough to halt further nuclear tests. Any further nuclear test at the site would only lead to a further collapse that risk creating a large scale environmental catastrophe.

This collapse indicates that previous nuclear tests have altered the tectonic stress in the area to the point where we are seeing the collapse and structural failures of these regions.

The nuclear explosion of this final test was estimated to be at 100 kilotons, which was 10 times more powerful than previous tests. Note that the bomb detonated in Hiroshima was only 15 kilotons. This represented a powerful force that was already acting on a weakened area due to the previous testing so it was only a matter of time before we saw these collapses.

This study is in line with a previous study released a month ago that showcased the same situation. Having been peer-reviewed, this latest study will be published in Geophysical Research Letters. Given the accuracy and legitimacy of the data, the nuclear site will be monitored for further seismic disturbances as well as any leaks of radioactive materials.

Given that this nuclear site has collapsed and it would effectively reduce North Korea’s ability to pursue further tests, it makes sense that they would seek peace and an end to their nuclear testing. There exists the risk that any further nuclear tests could trigger volcanic eruptions, a leak of radioactive materials, and an environmental collapse. All of this would not be in the interest of North Korea and if they do occur then North Korea would need assistance in dealing with the aftermath.

As peace talks continue, further nuclear tests are not expected to continue so the potential of future problems as a result of these tests will be limited to only those caused by previous events.

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Cite this article as:
Mohendra Shiwnarain. North Korea Halts Nuclear Activity, New Findings Indicate Why, Science Trends, 2018. Available at:
http://doi.org/10.31988/SciTrends.16992
*Note, DOIs are registered Friday weekly and therefore may not work until then.

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