North Korea to dismantle nuclear test site in May ‘ceremony’

Pyongyang to take action as part of build up to summit with Donald Trump

The Punggye-ri nuclear test site in North Korea. File photograph: Airbus Defense & Space/38 North/Pleiades CNES/Spot Image via AP

The Punggye-ri nuclear test site in North Korea. File photograph: Airbus Defense & Space/38 North/Pleiades CNES/Spot Image via AP

 

North Korea said it will hold a “ceremony” for the dismantling of its nuclear test site from May 23rd-25th in what would be a dramatic but symbolic event to set up leader Kim Jong-un’s summit with US president Donald Trump next month.

North Korea’s foreign ministry said all of the tunnels at the country’s northeastern testing ground would be destroyed by explosion, and that observation and research facilities and ground-based guard units would also be removed.

Pyongyang said it planned to invite journalists from the US, South Korea, China, Russia and Britain to inspect the process.

Mr Kim had revealed plans to shut down the nuclear test site during his summit with South Korean president Moon Jae-in last month.

Following the meeting, Mr Moon’s office said Mr Kim was willing to disclose the process to international experts, but the North’s statement on Saturday did not include any mention about allowing experts on the site.

The announcement came days after Washington said that the summit between Mr Kim and Mr Trump would be held on June 12th in Singapore.

Seoul, which shuttled between Washington and Pyongyang to set up the Trump-Kim meeting, has said Mr Kim has genuine interest in dealing away his nuclear weapons in return for economic benefits.

However, there are lingering doubts about whether Mr Kim would ever agree to fully relinquish the weapons he probably views as his only guarantee of survival.

Mr Kim declared his nuclear force as complete in December, following the country’s most powerful nuclear test to date in September and also three flight tests of intercontinental ballistic missiles designed to reach the US mainland.

At a ruling party meeting last month, North Korea had already announced that it has suspended all tests of nuclear devices and missiles and the plan to close the nuclear testing ground.

North Korea has invited the outside world to witness the dismantling of its nuclear facilities before.

In June 2008, international broadcasters were allowed to air the demolishing of a cooling tower at the Nyongbyon reactor site, a year after the North reached an agreement with the US and four other nations to disable its nuclear facilities in return for an aid package. – AP