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(((James Acton))) @james_acton32
, 15 tweets, 3 min read Read on Twitter
On Saturday, I called the agreement to allow inspections of North Korea's nuclear test site a "joke."

I was wrong. Actually, it's *almost certainly* a joke. And it ultimately risks undermining the diplomacy that I support.

Let me explain. (1/n)
Some commentators have conjured up images of inspectors roaming freely around Punggye Ri collecting intelligence (though environmental sampling, for instance) about DPRK's weapons development efforts.

That's not how verification works. It's not how it *should* work. (2/n)
The purpose of verification is to confirm whether or not specific conditions have been met--in this case that the test site has been "irreversibly dismantled."

But what does "irreversible dismantlement" actually mean? (3/n)
There is no internationally accepted standard for irreversibly dismantling a test site.

@ctbto_alerts isn't tasked with verifying dismantlement. Its mandate for onsite inspections is to verify whether a test has taken place. (4/n)
So, while @ctbto_alerts has incredible expertise in detecting whether a test has occurred, that's not the issue here--North Korea openly acknowledges its test site has been used for nuclear testing! (5/n)
So the real question is whether the parties themselves--presumably North Korea and the United States--can agree what irreversible dismantlement means. An international organization can't do that for them. (6/n)
So, if the United States and North Korea sit down and define terms--what equipment must be removed; how deeply tunnels must be filled; what activity is permitted onsite going forward etc. this could be a useful process. (7/n)
But I am deeply skeptical that such serious discussions will occur. Indeed, the very fact that both sides are describing the dismantlement as irreversible--when it can be nothing of the sort--suggests they are not serious. (8/n)
(To complicate matters further, the fact that inspectors were not present when the tunnels were collapsed would make verification much more difficult--even if definitions could be agreed.) (9/n)
In short, I worry that "inspections" of Punggye Ri will be tourism not verification. (10/n)
So does all this make me anti-diplomacy?

No! No! A thousand times no! (11/n)
I believe that North Korea's nuclear weapons are a reality the United States must learn to live with. And I strongly support the principle of limited steps to curtail the extent of the threat. (12/n)
What worries me (and others) is the Trump administration's instance that its goal is to disarm North Korea and that it will settle for nothing short. It's creating expectations that it cannot possibly meet. And when it fails, we could easily be back to crises. (13/n)
Steps such as the offer to allow "inspections" of Punggye Ri that, in the words of @ArmsControlWonk, are a "gesture that mimics disarmament," feed expectations and make the collapse of the process more likely. (14/n)
In short, I believe U.S. diplomacy should seek to achieve *meaningful* limited steps by North Korea to cap the threat its nuclear forces pose. And if it succeeds I will applaud those steps--but they gotta be meaningful. (15/15)
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