The United Nations cannot verify whether North Korea’s Punggye-ri nuclear test site has been completely and irreversibly destroyed, UN Under-Secretary-General of Disarmament Affairs Izumi Nakamitsu said in an interview.
"We haven’t had access. There were a limited number of journalists who were invited to observe. Verification on something like that requires a lot of technical expertise. So, with a lack of real technical experts who were there to verify, we cannot actually say for sure that it was irreversibly destroyed", Nakamitsu said.
Nakamitsu went on to say that the UN and the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) are in the dark about the true scope of the North Korean nuclear program as they have been denied access to the hermit nation for more than a decade now.
"The IAEA – which is a specialised agency but is part of the broader UN community – had access until 2009, but since then they haven't had any access and are relying on open-source material, such as satellite imagery. So … we don't have our independent intelligence information on what is happening with DPRK", Nakamitsu said, responding to a question about whether any reliable data exists on North Korea’s strategic weapons.
North Korea has used its outsized nuclear program as a power gamble to hold sway in the international community for decades. Pyongyang’s ebb and flow with regards to its readiness to develop the nuclear arms or to denuclearise has become a major headache for global security and prompted the UN to impose heavy sanctions against the country’s regime. A series of landmark meetings between North Korean leader Kim Jong-un and US President Donald Trump and other high-level negotiations in 2018 and 2019 have failed to result in substantial resolutions and have broken down in renewed distrust between the two sides.