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N. Korea’s denuclearization could take 15 years, expert says

N. Korea’s denuclearization could take 15 years, expert says

Posted May. 30, 2018 07:57,   

Updated May. 30, 2018 07:57

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It could take up to 15 years for complete, verifiable and irreversible dismantlement (CVID) of North Korea's nuclear program, according to an expert. Much as the Trump administration wants a complete denuclearization of North Korea during President Trump’s term in office (his term ends in 2020 and in 2024 if he is reelected), it could physically take much longer time for North Korea to denuclearize.

In an interview with The New York Times on Monday, a renowned nuclear physicist and Stanford University Professor Siegfried Hecker said it could take 15 years for North Korea’s denuclearization “given the tangle of political and technical uncertainties that the United States and North Korea would face.” Professor Hecker released a new report titled “A technically-informed roadmap for North Korea’s denuclearization,” which he and his colleagues at Stanford’s Center for International Security and Cooperation compiled together. Professor Hecker, who has experience inspecting nuclear facilities in Yongbyon, North Korea four times from 2004 to 2010, viewed, from the technical standpoint that three phases of denuclearization of North Korea would take 10 years.

The first phase for suspension of military, industrial and personnel operations would take a year and the second phase for scaling down of sites, facilities and weapons would take another five years. Lastly, the third phase for elimination or limiting nuclear programs would take 10 years, according to the report. Although the phases may overlap one another, North Korea’s denuclearization could take “up to 15 years,” the report writes. Nuclear dismantlement is even more difficult and time-consuming than nuclear development, according to Hecker. He stressed the complexity of nuclear dismantlement saying that the decontamination and decommissioning of a single plant that handles radioactive materials could take a decade or more. Hecker added that the safest way to dismantle the North’s nuclear weapons was to have the North Korean engineers, who built them, do the job.


Jeong-Hun Park sunshade@donga.com