Beijing has until now been reluctant to put too much pressure on Pyongyang for fear of precipitating a regime collapse which could lead to the creation of a US-supported United Korea on its doorstep. However, China may now be forced to intervene to avoid an environmental catastrophe on its territory because of the country’s close proximity to North Korea’s nuclear testing site.
According to experts from the University of Science and Technology of China, the mountainous region where the rogue regime conducts all its nuclear tests is in danger of imploding and releasing huge quantities of radioactive substances into the environment. The team, led by geophysicist Wen Lianxing, believes that another nuclear test could just do the trick.
“We call it ‘taking the roof off.’ If the mountain collapses and the hole is exposed, it will let out many bad things,” Wang Naiyan, the former chairman of the China Nuclear Society and a senior researcher on China’s nuclear weapons programme explained.
As a matter of fact, the South China Morning Post reported on Monday that Pyongyang’s latest nuclear test was followed by an earthquake a few minutes later and that this could suggest that part of the mountain may have already caved in as a result of the successive blasts. 38 North also published before-and-after photos which appear to show extensive landslides.
Wang agrees with Wen. If the team’s calculations are accurate, radioactive material could easily reach China. How quickly the mountain collapses will depend upon the types of tunnels used to carry out the nuclear tests according to Wang.
“If the bombs were planted at the bottom of vertically drilled tunnels, the explosion would do less damage,” he explained although he noted that drilling vertical tunnels was expensive and difficult. One can therefore assume that horizontal tunnels are being used which increases the risk of implosion.
Although air samples collected so far to measure radiation levels have all come back negative, China’s National Nuclear Safety Administration (NNSA) said that it would continue to monitor any nuclear test conducted by its neighbor.
Wang also warned that the increasing size of Pyongyang’s nuclear bombs made an implosion all the more likely.
“A 100 kiloton bomb is a relatively large bomb. The North Korean government should stop the tests as they pose a huge threat not only to North Korea but to other countries, especially China,” he added.Share