North Korea to dismantle nuclear test site

May 14, 2018, 10:42 am

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North Korea has announced it will dismantle its Punggye-ri nuclear test site between May 23 and May 25, depending on weather conditions. The dismantlement of the nuclear test site would involve collapsing all of its tunnels with explosions, blocking its entrances, and shutting down all of its observation facilities, research buildings and security posts. The picture shows the western tunnel of the Punggye-ri nuclear test site./ Source: 38 North, Yonhap News

By AsiaToday reporter Choi Tae-beom

The dismantlement of the Punggye-ri nuclear test site will take place between May 23-25. North Korea's official dismantlement of its core facility of nuclear development would be a historic event to show its commitment to denuclearization to the world.

In particular, its preemptive shutdown of its nuclear test site ahead of its historic summit with the United States is raising expectations for the outcome of the talks. Besides, it is likely to be the first step toward the "complete denuclearization" agreed at the Panmunjom Declaration of the inter-Korean summit.

North Korea's Foreign Ministry revealed Saturday in a statement that a ceremony for dismantling the Punggye-ri test site will take place between May 23 and 25. It added that reporters from China, Russia, the US, UK, and South Korea will be invited to the event in order to ensure transparency of shutdown of the nuclear test.

South Korea and the United States as well as other concerned nations immediately welcomed the North Korean announcement.

"The announcement shows Pyongyang's intention to carry out its agreement, reached during the inter-Korean summit, not through words but through action," said South Korea's presidential spokesperson Kim Eui-kyeom in a briefing on Sunday. "We hope the sound of dynamite blowing up the Punggye-ri tunnels will be a gun salute in a journey towards a Korean Peninsula free of nuclear weapons," the spokesperson said.

US. President Donald Trump took to Twitter on Saturday to express his thanks, calling the North's move "a very smart and gracious gesture."

The explosion of the nuclear test site, along with the recent extradition of American detainees, is expected to serve as an opportunity to maximize the trust between North Korea and the United States. Above all, it is expected to be a key momentum for the establishment of a peace regime on the Korean Peninsula beyond complete denuclearization in terms of eliminating future nuclear weapons and related programs.

As a result, the upcoming North Korea-US summit in Singapore is expected to focus on the issue of handling the North's existing nuclear weapons. As North Korea said its quest for nuclear weapons is "complete", the strategic value of the nuclear test site is relatively low, and the key would be handling the existing nuclear weapons.

North Korea will focus on bringing regime guarantee and economic aid from the US to the maximum level by showing the tangible result - the shutdown of its nuclear test site. There are claims that a big deal of US economic rewards to the North in return for complete denuclearization has already been done between the two countries to some extent.

In fact, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said Friday, "If North Korea takes bold action to quickly denuclearize, the United States is prepared to work with North Korea to achieve prosperity on the part with our South Korean friends."

#North Korea #Punggye-ri nuclear test site #dismantlement #summit 
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