The Trump Effect: NKorea Begins to Dismantle Nuclear Test Sites
NKorea has scheduled the dismantlement of its nuclear test site for sometime between 23-25 May depending on weather conditions, in order to uphold its pledge to discontinue nuclear tests, the country’s state media reported Saturday.
The official Korean Central New Agency said dismantlement of the Punggye-ri nuclear test ground would involve collapsing all of its tunnels with explosions, blocking its entrances, and removing all observation facilities, research buildings and security posts.
“The Nuclear Weapon Institute and other concerned institutions are taking technical measures for dismantling the northern nuclear test ground … in order to ensure transparency of discontinuance of the nuclear test,” KCNA said.
The announcement comes after US President Donald Trump said he would hold a summit with NKorea’s leader Kim Jong Un in Singapore on 12 June, the 1st-ever meeting between a sitting US President and a North Korean leader.
Friday, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said NKorea can look forward to “a future brimming with peace and prosperity” if it agrees to quickly give up its nuclear weapons.
However, NKorea has given no indication yet that it is willing to go beyond statements of broad conceptual support for denuclearization by unilaterally abandoning a nuclear weapons program its ruling family has seen as crucial to its survival.
In announcing the plan to shut Punggye-ri last month, Kim said NKorea no longer needed to conduct tests because it had completed its goal of developing nuclear weapons.
KCNA said journalists, including from the United States and SKorea, would be invited to cover the event, to “show in a transparent manner the dismantlement of the northern nuclear test ground to be carried out.”
To accommodate the traveling journalists, NKorea said various measures would be taken including “opening territorial air space.”
All international journalists would be provided with a charter flight into Wonsan, a port city in eastern NKorea, from Beijing, KCNA said. There, reporters will board a charter train to the nuclear test ground in an “uninhabited deep mountain area.”
SKorean officials said in April NKorea also planned to invite experts from the United States and South Korea for the Punggye-ri shutdown.
Last month, SKorea’s Yonhap news agency said South Korean President Moon Jae-in had asked the United Nations to help verify the shutdown.
All of NKorea’s 6 known nuclear tests have taken place at Punggye-ri, in the northeastern part of NKorea where a system of tunnels have been dug under Mount Mantap.
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