North Korea carried out the demolition of its nuclear test site on Thursday by setting off a series of explosions over several hours in the presence of foreign journalists.
The explosions at the nuclear test site deep in the mountains of the North’s sparsely populated northeast were centred on three tunnels into the underground site and a number of observation towers in the surrounding area.
The planned shutting down was previously announced by leader Kim Jong-un ahead of his planned summit with US President Donald Trump next month.
The North’s decision to shut down the Punggye-ri nuclear test site as a welcome gesture by Kim to set a positive tone ahead of the summit. Even so, it is not an irreversible move and would need to be followed by many more significant measures to meet Trump’s demands for real denuclearization.
By bringing in the foreign media, mainly television networks, the North is apparently hoping to have images of the closing — including explosions to collapse tunnel entrances — broadcast around the world. The group included an Associated Press Television crew.
The North did not invite international inspectors to the ceremony, which limits its value as a serious concession.
The outburst at Pence, issued in the name of a top Foreign Ministry official, comes on the heels of another sharp rebuke of Trump’s newly appointed national security adviser, John Bolton, and has raised concerns that a major gap has opened between the two sides just weeks before the June 12 summit in Singapore.
In both cases, Pyongyang was attempting to push back against hard-line comments suggesting North Korea may end up like Libya if it doesn’t move forward quickly and irreversibly with concrete measures to get rid of its nuclear weapons.