Before they give President Trump that Nobel Peace Prize his supporters want so desperately to shore up his fraying image, it would a good time to check in with scientists in China who believe that Kim Jong-un has a secret reason why he has suddenly become willing to shutter his nuclear program.
According to a paper being presented by the University of Science and Technology of China to the American Geophysical Union this fall, the mountain under which North Korea has been testing nuclear bombs has collapsed inward and there is a real concern it is about to leak radioactive fall out, which could spread over North Korea and China.
North Korea has exploded five nuclear devices under the Mount Mantap at the Punggye-ri nuclear test site in northwest North Korea.
While the first four appear to have been contained underground, where they caused earthquakes in the area, the most recent on September 3, 2017 – of a 100 kiloton bomb – was so powerful that it tore a hole in the mountain and caused it to collapse, which appears to have created a path of radioactivity to escape.
“The bomb likely vaporized the surrounding rock and blew a hole in the side of the mountain according to Wen Lianxing, the lead geologist on the project from the State University of New York at Stony Brook,” according to a post on Forbes.com.
“Evidence of the collapse of Mount Mantap suggests it could be the underlying cause of North Korea halting its nuclear tests,” adds Forbes.
There is also a danger that any future testing would set off a series of devastating earthquakes in North Korea and possibly China, say the Chinese scientists.
“The triggered earthquake swarm indicates that North Korea’s past tests have altered the tectonic stress in the region to the extent that previously inactive tectonic faults in the region have reached their state of critical failure,” write the Chinese scientists.
“Any further disturbance from a future test,” they add, “could generate earthquakes that may be damaging by their own force or crack the nuclear test sites of the past or the present.”
Considering how irresponsible North Korea has been in the past, it is still possible Kim Jong-un could create another test site – but it is also likely that the Chinese are not pleased with the possibility of a radioactive cloud drifting over their country and may have some stern words for their neighbor.
Since North Korea is dependent on China as a trading partner in light of sanctions against it by most of the rest of the civilized world, angering China could be a significant issue.
So if you are the North Korean dictator and your nuclear experiments are poisoning your own country and about to poke a sleeping bear next door, this would be a good time to save face by switching gears and announcing plans for a denuclearization of the entire peninsula – as if suddenly you have discovered the joys of peace and friendship.
Since Trump is hungry for any kind of victory, this would play into the hands of a simple-minded authoritarian who can be convinced that he is the cause of a sudden outbreak of world peace. As a result, Kim Jong-un can ask for foreign aid for the millions of his citizens who are likely to get cancer in coming years from being exposed to radioactivity, while he gets sanctions lifted and still gets to keep his cushy job.