North Korea blows up nuclear test site amid doubts over summit

May 24, 2018
North Korea followed through on a pledge to blow up tunnels at its nuclear test site on Thursday, media reported, as part of steps that have reduced tension on the Korean peninsula and raised the possibility of a summit with the United States. North Korea has conducted all six of its nuclear tests at the Punggye-ri site, which consists of tunnels dug beneath Mount Mantap in the northeast of the country. A small group of international media selected by North Korea was on hand to witness the demolition, which Pyongyang says is proof of its commitment to end nuclear testing. The destruction of the site began at about 11 a.m. with the blowing up and collapsing of a tunnel and an observation post. South Korean media described how North Korean authorities called out to media to ask if they were ready to film the first blast. They then counted down. “With a heavy boom that shook Mount Mantap, dirt and broken rocks spilled out from the entrance,” South Korean media reported. After some time, another tunnel and other facilities were destroyed, then a third tunnel and another observation post. About five hours after the operation began, two military barracks were demolished, South Korean media said. The North Korean offer to scrap the test site has been seen as a major concession in months of easing tension between it, on the one hand, and South Korea and the United States on the other. North Korea announced in April it would suspend nuclear and missile tests and scrap the test site, and instead pursue economic growth and peace. But the progress appears to have suffered a setback this month with North Korea raising doubts about an unprecedented June 12 summit in Singapore between its leader, Kim Jong Un, and U.S. President Donald Trump. The North objects to U.S. demands that it unilaterally give up its arsenal of nuclear bombs and ballistic missiles. Last week, Trump sought to placate North Korea after it threatened to call off the summit, saying Kim’s security would be guaranteed in any deal and his country would not suffer the fate of Muammar Gaddafi’s Libya, unless that could not be reached. But the reference to the case of Libya has angered North Korea. -Reuters


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