Dismantling of N. Korea nuclear test site 'well under way': US monitor

SEOUL • Satellite photos indicate North Korea has begun dismantling its nuclear test site ahead of a historic summit between its leader Kim Jong Un and President Donald Trump, a US monitor said.

In a move welcomed by Washington and Seoul, North Korea said at the weekend it will "completely" destroy the Punggye-ri test site in a ceremony scheduled between May 23 and 25 in front of invited foreign media. Punggye-ri, in the country's north-east, has been the site of all six of the North's nuclear tests, the latest and by far the most powerful in September last year, which Pyongyang said was an H-bomb.

The respected 38 North website said yesterday satellite images dated May 7 showed "the first definitive evidence that dismantlement of the test site was already well under way".

Several key operational buildings and sheds had been razed, and rails linking tunnels to waste piles were removed, the monitoring group said. Excavation of a new tunnel has been halted since late March.

Images showed preparatory work for the destruction ceremony had begun, including a newly positioned foundation believed to have been built for invited journalists.

North Korea will invite South Korean reporters from one news agency and one television broadcaster to observe the dismantling, South Korea's Ministry of Unification said yesterday. The reporters will be allowed into North Korea on a flight from Beijing with other foreign media next Tuesday.

The two Koreas will meet for a high-level meeting today to discuss follow-up measures from their summit last month,the ministry said.

Dialogue brokered by South Korea has seen United States-North Korea relations go from trading personal insults and threats of war last year to a summit between Mr Kim and Mr Trump to be held in Singapore on June 12.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, REUTERS

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on May 16, 2018, with the headline 'Dismantling of N. Korea nuclear test site 'well under way': US monitor'. Print Edition | Subscribe