Korean journalists to witness nuclear test site dismantling

People watch a TV screen reporting that North Korea will dismantle nuke test site during a news programme at the Seoul Railway Station in Seoul. Ahn Young-joon  AP

North Korea has begun dismantling the country's only known nuclear test site, according to satellite photos, following through on a promise made by leader Kim Jong-un ahead of his meeting with Donald Trump.

An analysis Monday by the 38 North website says commercial imagery taken last week shows that several operational support buildings have been razed and rails for mining carts have apparently been removed.

The country has conducted six nuclear tests at the Punggye-ri facility since 2006, most recently on September 3, 2017.

They will then go by train to the nuclear site, then return on May 26 or May 27, the South Korean ministry said in a statement, citing a North Korean notice.

"The Nuclear Weapon Institute and other concerned institutions are taking technical measures for dismantling the northern nuclear test ground.in order to ensure transparency of discontinuance of the nuclear test", KCNA said.

The former No. 2 man in the North Korean Embassy in London casts doubt on North Korean leader Kim Jong-un's new cuddly and approachable image in a new memoir published Monday. There were reports the site had collapsed and was unusable, but Kim himself reportedly dismissed those claims, saying "we have two more tunnels that are bigger than the existing ones and that they are in good condition".

President Donald Trump and North Korean's Kim Jong-un have a planned June 12 meeting in Singapore, the first such encounter between a sitting United States president and a North Korean leader. Pompeo said that the USA was willing to help the impoverished North boost its economy to levels like those in prosperous South Korea. "In parallel with dismantlement of the nuclear test ground, guards and researchers will be withdrawn and the surrounding area of the test ground be completely closed".

More news: Ousted Malaysian PM Najib says will respect ban on travel overseas

Not everyone shared the optimism over Pyongyang's nuclear pledge.

In addition to pledging an end to unannounced missile testing, North Korea said its "national nuclear arms program was complete", according to the United Nations agency.

At a party meeting last month, Kim proclaimed that the development of the North's nuclear force was complete and promised no more nuclear or missile tests.

Trump is likely to discuss that upcoming summit when he meets with congressional Republicans Tuesday.

"North Korea's diplomacy has always been a repeat of hardline and appeasement", Thae added.

Pompeo and other USA officials have repeatedly said they are seeking North Korea's permanent verifiable denuclearization, while North Korean officials have said that they have already achieved their nuclear objectives.

Trump and South Korea's President are due to meet May 22 at the White House.

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