North Korea's demolition of its only nuclear test site may have just been a show for the cameras

  • North Korea recently claimed to have destroyed its only nuclear test site and let journalists record the process, but intelligence assessments suggest this may have just been a show for the cameras. 
  • The explosions at the tunnels of the mountainous Punggye-ri test site appeared to have been "too small" to have collapsed them in a significant way, according to an international arms control official.
  • Despite such concerns, President Donald Trump on Friday said his on-again, off-again meeting with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un is moving forward and will take place on June 12 in Singapore. 

North Korea recently claimed to have destroyed its only nuclear test site and let journalists record the process, but intelligence assessments suggest this may have just been a show for the cameras. 

North Korea's demolition of the site was seemingly a major step toward denuclearization and Pyongyang hoped it would show the US that it takes the process seriously. But many were skeptical of whether North Korea properly dismantled its test site, given that no weapons inspectors or nonproliferation experts were allowed to observe its destruction.

Moreover, the journalists invited lacked the expertise to provide verification, which some of them were quite vocal about after they watched the site's supposed demolition. 

"The problem is, this is a group of journalists," CBS's Ben Tracy, who was one of the repoters North Korea invited to watch, said at the time. "Nobody there is a nuclear expert, so we have no way of knowing if what they did in front of us actually does render that site completely unusable, or if it simply just destroyed the entrances to these tunnels that could then eventually be fixed."

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North Korea dismantles nuclear test site
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North Korea dismantles nuclear test site
PUNGGYE-RI, NORTH KOREA - MAY 24: (SOUTH KOREA OUT) In this handout image provided by the News1-Dong-A Ilbo, taken on May 24, North Korea's Punggye-ri nuclear test site explosion on May 24, 2018 in Punggye-ri, North Korea. North Korea dismantled their nuclear testing facility at Punggye-ri in front of the international media. (Photo by Handout/News1 via Getty Images)
PUNGGYE-RI, NORTH KOREA - MAY 24: (SOUTH KOREA OUT) In this handout image provided by the News1-Dong-A Ilbo, the entrance to a tunnel rigged with explosives is shown at North Korea's Punggye-ri nuclear test site on May 24, 2018 in Punggye-ri, North Korea. North Korea dismantled their nuclear testing facility at Punggye-ri in front of the international media. (Photo by News1-Dong-A Ilbo via Getty Images)
PUNGGYE-RI, NORTH KOREA - MAY 24: (SOUTH KOREA OUT) In this handout image provided by the News1-Dong-A Ilbo, a North Korean soldier stands at the entrance to a tunnel at the Punggye-ri nuclear test site on May 24, 2018 in Punggye-ri, North Korea. North Korea dismantled their nuclear testing facility at Punggye-ri in front of the international media. (Photo by News1-Dong-A Ilbo via Getty Images)
PUNGGYE-RI, NORTH KOREA - MAY 24: (SOUTH KOREA OUT) In this handout image provided by the News1-Dong-A Ilbo, taken on May 24, North Korea's Punggye-ri nuclear test site explosion on May 24, 2018 in Punggye-ri, North Korea. North Korea dismantled their nuclear testing facility at Punggye-ri in front of the international media. (Photo by Handout/News1 via Getty Images)
PUNGGYE-RI, NORTH KOREA - MAY 24: (SOUTH KOREA OUT) In this handout image provided by the News1-Dong-A Ilbo, the debris is seen after demolition of the Punggye-ri nuclear test site on May 24, 2018 in Punggye-ri, North Korea. North Korea dismantled their nuclear testing facility at Punggye-ri in front of the international media. (Photo by News1-Dong-A Ilbo via Getty Images)
PUNGGYE-RI, NORTH KOREA - MAY 24: (SOUTH KOREA OUT) In this handout image provided by the News1-Dong-A Ilbo, North Korean soldiers stand at the entrance to a tunnel at the Punggye-ri nuclear test site on May 24, 2018 in Punggye-ri, North Korea. North Korea dismantled their nuclear testing facility at Punggye-ri in front of the international media. (Photo by News1-Dong-A Ilbo via Getty Images)
PUNGGYE-RI, NORTH KOREA - MAY 24: (SOUTH KOREA OUT) In this handout image provided by the News1-Dong-A Ilbo, taken on May 24, North Korea's Punggye-ri nuclear test site explosion on May 24, 2018 in Punggye-ri, North Korea. North Korea dismantled their nuclear testing facility at Punggye-ri in front of the international media. (Photo by Handout/News1 via Getty Images)
PUNGGYE-RI, NORTH KOREA - MAY 24: (SOUTH KOREA OUT) In this handout image provided by the News1-Dong-A Ilbo, taken on May 24, North Korea's Punggye-ri nuclear test site explosion on May 24, 2018 in Punggye-ri, North Korea. North Korea dismantled their nuclear testing facility at Punggye-ri in front of the international media. (Photo by Handout/News1 via Getty Images)
PUNGGYE-RI, NORTH KOREA - MAY 24: (SOUTH KOREA OUT) In this handout image provided by the News1-Dong-A Ilbo, a North Korean soldier stands at the entrance to a tunnel at the Punggye-ri nuclear test site on May 24, 2018 in Punggye-ri, North Korea. North Korea dismantled their nuclear testing facility at Punggye-ri in front of the international media. (Photo by News1-Dong-A Ilbo via Getty Images)
PUNGGYE-RI, NORTH KOREA - MAY 24: (SOUTH KOREA OUT) In this handout image provided by the News1-Dong-A Ilbo, a North Korean soldier stands at the entrance to a tunnel at the Punggye-ri nuclear test site on May 24, 2018 in Punggye-ri, North Korea. North Korea dismantled their nuclear testing facility at Punggye-ri in front of the international media. (Photo by News1-Dong-A Ilbo via Getty Images)
PUNGGYE-RI, NORTH KOREA - MAY 24: (SOUTH KOREA OUT) In this handout image provided by the News1-Dong-A Ilbo, taken on May 24, North Korea's Punggye-ri nuclear test site explosion on May 24, 2018 in Punggye-ri, North Korea. North Korea dismantled their nuclear testing facility at Punggye-ri in front of the international media. (Photo by News1-Dong-A Ilbo via Getty Images)
PUNGGYE-RI, NORTH KOREA - MAY 24: (SOUTH KOREA OUT) In this handout image provided by the News1-Dong-A Ilbo, the entrance to a tunnel rigged with explosives is shown at the Punggye-ri nuclear test site on May 24, 2018 in Punggye-ri, North Korea. North Korea dismantled their nuclear testing facility at Punggye-ri in front of the international media. (Photo by News1-Dong-A Ilbo via Getty Images)
PUNGGYE-RI, NORTH KOREA - MAY 24: (SOUTH KOREA OUT) In this handout image provided by the News1-Dong-A Ilbo, members of the media make their way towards North Korea's Punggye-ri nuclear test site on May 24, 2018 in Punggye-ri, North Korea. North Korea dismantled their nuclear testing facility at Punggye-ri in front of the international media. (Photo by News1-Dong-A Ilbo via Getty Images)
PUNGGYE-RI, NORTH KOREA - MAY 24: (SOUTH KOREA OUT) In this handout image provided by the News1-Dong-A Ilbo, the debris is seen after a demolition 'ceremony' at the North Korea's Punggye-ri nuclear test site on May 24, 2018 in Punggye-ri, North Korea. North Korea dismantled their nuclear testing facility at Punggye-ri in front of the international media. (Photo by News1-Dong-A Ilbo via Getty Images)
PUNGGYE-RI, NORTH KOREA - MAY 24: (SOUTH KOREA OUT) In this handout image provided by the News1-Dong-A Ilbo, members of the media stand at the entrance to a tunnel prior to a demolition ceremony at North Korea's Punggye-ri nuclear test site on May 24, 2018 in Punggye-ri, North Korea. North Korea dismantled their nuclear testing facility at Punggye-ri in front of the international media. (Photo by News1-Dong-A Ilbo via Getty Images)
PUNGGYE-RI, NORTH KOREA - MAY 24: (SOUTH KOREA OUT) In this handout image provided by the News1-Dong-A Ilbo, the Punggye-ri nuclear test site is demolished on May 24, 2018 in Punggye-ri, North Korea. North Korea dismantled their nuclear testing facility at Punggye-ri in front of the international media. (Photo by News1-Dong-A Ilbo via Getty Images)
PUNGGYE-RI, NORTH KOREA - MAY 24: (SOUTH KOREA OUT) In this handout image provided by the News1-Dong-A Ilbo, a North Korean soldier stands at the entrance to a tunnel at the Punggye-ri nuclear test site on May 24, 2018 in Punggye-ri, North Korea. North Korea dismantled their nuclear testing facility at Punggye-ri in front of the international media. (Photo by News1-Dong-A Ilbo via Getty Images)
PUNGGYE-RI, NORTH KOREA - MAY 24: (SOUTH KOREA OUT) In this handout image provided by the News1-Dong-A Ilbo, a North Korean soldier inspects debris before members of the foreign media following demolition of the Punggye-ri nuclear site on May 24, 2018 in Punggye-ri, North Korea. North Korea dismantled their nuclear testing facility at Punggye-ri in front of the international media. (Photo by News1-Dong-A Ilbo via Getty Images)
PUNGGYE-RI, NORTH KOREA - MAY 24: (SOUTH KOREA OUT) In this handout image provided by the News1-Dong-A Ilbo, the Punggye-ri nuclear test site is demolished on May 24, 2018 in Punggye-ri, North Korea. North Korea dismantled their nuclear testing facility at Punggye-ri in front of the international media. (Photo by News1-Dong-A Ilbo via Getty Images)
PUNGGYE-RI, NORTH KOREA - MAY 24: (SOUTH KOREA OUT) In this handout image provided by the News1-Dong-A Ilbo, a North Korean soldier explains the demolition process of the Punggye-ri nuclear test facility to the media at the Punggye-ri nuclear test site on May 24, 2018 in Punggye-ri, North Korea. North Korea dismantled their nuclear testing facility at Punggye-ri in front of the international media. (Photo by News1-Dong-A Ilbo via Getty Images)
PUNGGYE-RI, NORTH KOREA - MAY 24: (SOUTH KOREA OUT) In this handout image provided by the News1-Dong-A Ilbo, North Korea's Punggye-ri nuclear test site is demolished on May 24, 2018 in Punggye-ri, North Korea. North Korea dismantled their nuclear testing facility at Punggye-ri in front of the international media. (Photo by News1-Dong-A Ilbo via Getty Images)
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Now, US intelligence and international arms control officials have reportedly said it may have all been a charade. 

The explosions at the tunnels of the mountainous Punggye-ri test site appeared to have been "too small" to have collapsed them in a significant way, an international arms control official told CNN

"The fact that journalists were reportedly only around 500 meters from the explosions is a good indication that these were small blasts. And the amount of dust leads us to believe that they were quite superficial," the official added. 

According to CNN's report, US intelligence assessments also found the explosions weren't strong enough to truly destroy the tunnels. The assessments are based on analysis from seismic sensors in the region. 

When Business Insider recently asked an explosives expert to provide an assessment of the images and footage surrounding the test site's alleged destruction, she said there was little she could discern from the materials.

"I can't tell much from these pictures, which, of course, is the reason for journalists only," Jimmie Oxley, a professor at the University of Rhode Island, said in late May

In short, it seems North Korea's most substantial step toward denuclearization may have been a sham. 

Despite such concerns, President Donald Trump on Friday said his on-again, off-again meeting with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un is moving forward and will take place on June 12 in Singapore

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How to survive a nuclear attack
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How to survive a nuclear attack

What should you do in the event of a nearby nuclear attack? Click through to learn more. 

(Photo by Lambert/Getty Images)

Seek shelter immediately, towards the center of a building or -- preferably -- a basement. Aim for the same type of shelter you would utilize in the event of a tornado. 

(Photo via Getty Images)

The next three slides are examples of nuclear shelters that exist around the world. 

(Image via Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory)

The entrance of Shelter Co.'s nuclear shelter model room, which is placed in the basement of the company's CEO Seiichiro Nishimoto's house, is pictured in Osaka, Japan April 26, 2017. (Photo via REUTERS/Kim Kyung-Hoon)
A fallout shelter sign hangs on the Mount Rona Baptist Church, on August 9, 2017 in Washington, DC. In the early 60's Washington was at the center of civil defense preparations in case of a nuclear blast, with over one thousand dedicated public fallout shelters in schools, churches and government buildings. (Photo by Mark Wilson/Getty Images)
A 'shelter' sign is displayed at the entrance to a subway station in Seoul on July 6, 2017 in Seoul, South Korea. According to the metropolitan government, South Korea's city subway stations serve a dual purpose with over 3,300 designated as shelters in case of aerial bombardment including any threat from North Korea. The U.S. said that it will use military force if needed to stop North Korea's nuclear missile program after North Korea fired an intercontinental ballistic missile on Tuesday into Japanese waters. The latest launch have drawn strong criticism from the U.S. as experts believe the ICBM has the range to reach the U.S. states of Alaska and Hawaii and perhaps the U.S. Pacific Northwest. (Photo by Chung Sung-Jun/Getty Images)

Dense materials, including dirt or thick walls, provide the best defense to fallout radiation.

(Photo via Getty Images)

If possible, take a warm shower -- but do not use conditioner, as it can bond to nuclear particles. 

(Photo via Getty Images)

Do not seek shelter in a car, as they won't provide adequate protection, and you should not attempt to outrun nuclear fallout. 

(Photo by Noel Hendrickson via Getty Images)

The nuclear fallout zone shrinks quickly after an attack, but the less dangerous "hot zone" still grows. 

(Image via Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory)

Once you are sheltered, do not leave. Listen to a radio or other announcements. 

(Photo via Getty Images)

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SEE ALSO: Experts struggle to determine whether North Korea actually dismantled its nuclear test site

DON'T MISS: A CBS News reporter reveals what it was like when North Korea blew up its nuclear testing site

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