SEOUL, South Korea — North Korea said on Saturday that it will allow journalists from the United States and other countries to witness the shutting down of its underground nuclear test site between May 23 and 25, which will be done by collapsing all ...
An annotated satellite image released last year shows the Punggye-ri nuclear test site in North Korea.CreditAirbus Defense & Space/38 North
May 12, 2018
SEOUL, South Korea — North Korea said on Saturday that it will allow journalists from the United States and other countries to witness the shutting down of its underground nuclear test site between May 23 and 25, which will be done by collapsing all its tunnels in a controlled explosion and sealing their entrances.
North Korea decided last month to end all nuclear and long-range ballistic missile tests and close its only known nuclear test site, located in Punggye-ri in the northeast of the country. When North Korean leader, Kim Jong-un, met with South Korea’s president, Moon Jae-in, on April 27, he promised to invite outside journalists and experts this month to watch the dismantling of the test site, Mr. Moon’s office said.
Mr. Kim promised these confidence-building steps as he has tried to improve ties with Washington ahead of his planned summit meeting with President Trump in Singapore on June 12. Mr. Kim also met with Secretary of State Mike Pompeo this week in Pyongyang, the North Korean capital, and let him take three American prisoners home with him.
In a Twitter post on Saturday, President Trump thanked North Korea, calling the dismantling of the test site “a very smart and gracious gesture.”
South Korean soldiers and civilians in Seoul, South Korea in 2016, watching a news report about an earthquake in North Korea that was thought to have been caused by nuclear testing.CreditYonhap, via European Pressphoto Agency
North Korea said it would allow journalists from China, Russia, the United States, Britain and South Korea to conduct “on-the-spot coverage” of a ceremony for dismantling the nuclear test ground later this month, depending on weather conditions.
Mr. Kim has said that when he meets with Mr. Trump, he is willing to discuss relinquishing his country’s nuclear arsenal in return for security guarantees, the lifting of sanctions and other incentives from the United States.
Skeptics fear that Mr. Kim does not really intend to give up his nuclear weapons and is merely trying to soften his image, escape sanctions and make it more difficult for Mr. Trump to continue to threaten military action. But South Korean officials argue that Mr. Kim is willing to bargain away his nuclear weapons in return for ending hostilities and getting Washington’s help to improve his country’s economy.
North Korea has conducted all six of its nuclear tests at Punggye-ri.
Some analysts have downplayed the significance of North Korea’s decision to shut down the Punggye-ri site. They said that after six tests, all conducted in deep tunnels, the place has caved in and become too unstable for another test. But when he met with Mr. Moon last month, Mr. Kim rebuffed the skeptics, saying that the test site still had two tunnels where nuclear tests could be conducted.
During a meeting last month of the country’s ruling Workers’ Party, North Korea said it no longer needed nuclear and long-range missile tests or the nuclear test site because its had learned how to build nuclear warheads and mount them on missiles. It said it would now focus national resources on rebuilding its economy.
South Korean officials have said North Korea’s promise to invite outsiders to Punggye-ri reflected “a willingness to take proactive steps in verifying” its commitment to denuclearization, which will be the key topic in the planned summit between Mr. Kim and Mr. Trump.
A version of this article appears in print on , on Page A12 of the New York edition with the headline: North Korea Invites World To See Closing Of Testing Site. Order Reprints | Today’s Paper | Subscribe
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