SEOUL (REUTERS, NYTIMES) - South Korea welcomes North Korea's schedule to dismantle its nuclear test site ahead of a historic summit between the North and the United States, the South's presidential office said on Sunday (May 13).
"This shows they are willing to keep their promise made at the inter-Korean summit through action beyond words," Blue House spokesman Kim Eui Kyeom told a media briefing. North and South Korea held a separate summit in late April.
North Korea has scheduled the dismantlement of its nuclear bomb test site for sometime between May 23-25 in order to uphold its pledge to discontinue nuclear tests, the country's state media reported on Saturday, a month ahead of the summit with the United States.
North Korea said it will allow journalists from the United States and other countries to witness the shutting down of its underground nuclear test site, 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 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 Donald Trump in Singapore on June 12. Mr Kim also met with Secretary of State Mike Pompeo in Pyongyang, the North Korean capital, and let him take three American prisoners home with him.
In a Twitter post on Saturday, Trump thanked North Korea, calling the dismantling of the test site "a very smart and gracious gesture".
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.
Sceptics 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.