SEOUL:, MAY 13,
North Korea said on Saturday that it would dismantle its nuclear test site in less than two weeks, in a dramatic event that would set up leader Kim Jong Un’s summit with President Donald Trump next month. Mr. Trump welcomed the “gracious gesture.”
In a statement carried by state media, North Korea’s Foreign Ministry said all of the tunnels at the country’s northeastern testing ground will be destroyed by explosion, and observation and research facilities and ground-based guard units will also be removed.
This is not full denuclearisation: analysts
Mr. Kim had already revealed plans to shut the test site by the end of May during his summit with South Korean President Moon Jae-in last month. Analysts say that while the closure of the site is important, it doesn’t represent a material step toward full denuclearisation.
“A ceremony for dismantling the nuclear test ground is now scheduled between May 23 and 25,” depending on weather, the Foreign Ministry’s statement said, adding that journalists from the United States, South Korea, China, Russia and Britain will be invited to witness the dismantling. The Ministry said the North will continue to “promote close contacts and dialogue with the neighboring countries and the international society so as to safeguard peace and stability on the Korean Peninsula and over the globe.”
Mr. Trump, in a tweet on Saturday, thanked North Korea for its plan to dismantle the nuclear test site, calling it “a very smart and gracious gesture!”
Following the Moon-Kim meeting, Mr. Moon’s office said Mr. Kim was willing to disclose the process to international experts, but the North’s statement Saturday didn’t address allowing experts on the site.
South Korea had no immediate response to the statement.
To the much-looked-forward event
The North’s announcement comes days after Washington announced that the historic summit between Mr. Kim and Mr. Trump will be held June 12 in Singapore.
South Korea has said Mr. Kim has genuine interest in dealing away his nuclear weapons in return for economic benefits. However, there are lingering doubts about whether Mr. Kim would ever agree to fully relinquish the weapons he probably views as his only guarantee of survival.
During their meeting at a border truce village, Mr. Moon and Mr. Kim vaguely promised to work toward the “complete denuclearisation” of the Korean Peninsula, but made no references to verification or timetables.
North Korea for decades has been pushing a concept of “denuclearisation” that bears no resemblance to the American definition. The North has been vowing to pursue nuclear development unless Washington removes its 28,500 troops from South Korea and the nuclear umbrella defending South Korea and Japan.