Of the many things happening in the world right now that cause me to weep at night (and most of the day) the nuclear-powered North Korean leader Kim Jong-un is very high on my list. He’s got a violent reputation for destroying his enemies and has launched a host of provocative nuclear weapons tests.
And for a long time, North Korea’s most powerful and important nuclear testing site has been the sprawling Punggye-ri complex in the north of the country, near to the border with China. Or at least it *was* the most powerful and most important testing site.
Chinese researchers now believe that a nuclear test in September last year was so strong that it accidentally caused the site to collapse in on itself.
Geologists at the University of Science and Technology of China used seismic data to pinpoint the location of several tremors that followed the test and determined that it had caused a huge collapse 8.5 minutes after the initial blast, according to USA Today.
The complex was also believed to have been home to an extensive series of tunnels, which burrowed underneath the nearby mountains.
“In view of the research finding that the North Korea nuclear test site has collapsed, it is necessary to continue to monitor any leakage of radioactive materials that may have been caused by the collapse,” the authors of the study added.
Effectively, this latest news means that North Korea’s capacity for testing nuclear weapons has been dramatically reduced.
But what does this mean for peace in the wider region?
It’s possible that this development may have had an impact on Jong-un’s recent dramatic decision to begin negotiations with Donald Trump and South Korea, according to CNN; that is, given that North Korea’s capacity for producing nuclear weapons may have been reduced without any external factors, they stand to gain more by appearing to climb down over issue, in order to reduce sanctions.
It’s hoped that the rogue state will give up its nuclear weapons programme entirely, perhaps in return for economic assistance.
The first major test of this new diplomatic effort will come on Friday when Kim Jong-un is set to become the first North Korean leader to cross into South Korean territory since the end of the Korean War in 1953 for a summit with President Moon Jae-in.
He’s then expected to meet Trump by early June.
(Images: Getty / Google Maps)