North Korea releases details of plans to dismantle nuclear test site
Journalists to travel from Beijing to North Korean port of Wonsan before heading to mountainous area
North Korea has scheduled the dismantlement of its nuclear test site for some time between May 23 and 25 depending on weather conditions in order to uphold its previous pledge to discontinue nuclear tests, state media reported on Saturday.
The country's central news agency said the dismantlement of the 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 of the DPRK in order to ensure transparency of discontinuance of the nuclear test," said the announcement. DPRK is an acronym for North Korea's official name, the Democratic People's Republic of Korea.
U.S. President Donald Trump said on Twitter that he welcomed the "gracious gesture."
North Korea has announced that they will dismantle Nuclear Test Site this month, ahead of the big Summit Meeting on June 12th. Thank you, a very smart and gracious gesture!—@realDonaldTrump
The announcement comes after Trump said he would hold a summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un in Singapore on June 12. It will be the first meeting ever between a sitting U.S. president and the leader of North Korea.
It follows a flurry of international engagement with North Korea as the two Koreas held their own summit in late April and officials plan to hold high-level meetings in coming weeks.
Promise of U.S. aid
"The atmospherics [heading into the summit] are great, so at the moment there is a lot of hope ... but things could unravel in a very bad way. We just have to wait to see how this unfolds," said David Welch of the Waterloo, Ont.-based Balsillie School of International Affairs.
"We still haven't seen much yet about what the quid pro quo will be if North Korea agrees to fully denuclearize," Welch told CBC News.
"And [U.S. Secretary of State] Mike Pompeo's statement ... is an early indication of what might be part of the package the United States would put together, massive economic aid to try to bring North Korea up to South Korean infrastructure standards, which would frankly be a spectacularly expensive proposition," Welch said.
Pompeo said on Friday that North Korea can look forward to "a future brimming with peace and prosperity" if it agrees to quickly give up its nuclear weapons.
"If North Korea takes bold action to quickly denuclearize, the United States is prepared to work with North Korea to achieve prosperity on the par with our South Korean friends," he said.
Foreign journalists to be invited
Officials in Seoul had said in April that North Korea planned to invite experts and journalists from the United States and South Korea for the shutdown of its test site.
North Korea said journalists from other countries, including the United States and South Korea, will be invited to cover the event, to "show in a transparent manner the dismantlement of the northern nuclear test ground to be carried out."
In order to accommodate the travelling journalists, North Korea said various measures would be taken including "opening territorial air space."
All international journalists will be provided with a charter flight into Wonsan, a port city in eastern North Korea, from Beijing, KCNA said. There, reporters will board a charter train to the nuclear test ground in an "uninhabited deep mountain area."
North Korea's six known nuclear tests have taken place in Punggye-ri, a location in the northeastern part of North Korea where a system of tunnels have been dug under Mount Mantap.
Experts have said the pledge to dismantle the test site is a big step forward but verifying it will be difficult.
With files from CBC News and The Associated Press