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The Cooling Tower Collapse Show vs. Detailed Verification

Jeong Jae Sung  |  2008-06-29 17:56
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North Korea blew up the Yongbyon nuclear reactor's cooling tower on the 27th. CNN reported the collapse on the afternoon of the 27th.

It was known that 200kg of dynamite was used in the "event." The cooling tower is a 20-meter concrete structure which is attached to the 5MW nuclear reactor. In reality, however, it is a nuclear facility whose operations ceased in July of last year and whose shell only remains. A cooling device and vaporization equipment were in the cooling tower, but was dismantled in the presence of U.S. witnesses several months ago.

The cooling tower is an apparatus which cools the heat of the nuclear reactor when nuclear fission takes place. Accordingly, the discovery of steam at the cooling tower indicates the operation of the nuclear reactor, so the U.S., through artificial satellite, has continually monitored this facility.

At the outset, the destruction of the tower was planned to be broadcast live globally through CNN and other networks, but due to the North's refusal to comply, this was not achieved. Subsequently, CNN, South Korea's MBC, and media from five countries filmed the scene in Yongbyon, transferred it to Pyongyang and broadcast it from there.

At the scene of the destruction, Sung Kim, U.S. Department of State's Director of the Office of Korean Affairs who visited the North through Panmunjom on the 26th, and a high-level official of North Korea's Ministry of Foreign Affairs were present.

North Korea, through the cooling tower "destruction show," garnered the entire world's attention and benefited from the opportunity for propaganda.

Accordingly, Blue House Spokesperson Lee Dong Gwan evaluated a head of the destruction of the cooling tower on the 27th, "Today's destruction can be received as a step which politically and symbolically shows the DPRK's intent for denuclearization."

North Korea, who strongly wants its removal from the U.S.' list of terrorism-sponsoring countries and an improvement in U.S.-North Korea relations, through the display on the 27th, presented to the U.S. the gift of "diplomatic achievement." Furthermore, the result of silencing the voices of U.S. hardliners, who have harbored discontent towards the North's plan of denuclearization and the Bush administration's attitude of cooperation, can be expected.

However, the related countries of the Six Party Talks, including the U.S. Bush administration, have emphasized a detailed verification regarding the nuclear declaration submitted by the North, so it has been observed that this issue has not been smoothed over yet. Although North Korea has symbolically shown its intent for denuclearization, the resistance against the "incompleteness" of the nuclear declaration by U.S. hardliners and the public sentiment against the removal of North Korea from the State Sponsors of Terrorism List are anticipated obstacles.

In particular, the denunciation of the exclusion of the number of nuclear weapons from the declaration, UEP, and the connection of nuclear cooperation with Syria is expected to get stronger, so the political situation surrounding North Korean nuclear weapons is getting complicated. According to the direction of the "verification issue" which will be intensively discussed in the Six Party Talks to be held shortly, whether the collapse of the cooling tower will be remembered as "show" or an intent for denuclearization remains to be seen.

Song Dae Sung, Senior Researcher at the Sejong Institute, said, "The collapse of the cooling tower is merely an event which elevates the Bush administration in exchange for its removal from the List of Terrorism-Sponsoring Countries."

Just how much the show will influence the "detailed verification" of the U.S. which will ensue in the next few months remains to be seen. Experts say that the denunciation surrounding the actual "verification," rather than the impact of the collapse, will spread more widely.
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