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North Korea dismantles nuclear tunnel ahead of summit

North Korea launches four missiles in an undisclosed location North Korea (FILE PHOTO)

PYONGYANG: North Korea has dismantled its nuclear test site, media invited to attend the ceremony said Thursday, in a carefully choreographed move portrayed by the isolated regime as a goodwill gesture ahead of a potential summit next month with the US.

This follows Pyongyang’s announcement to “completely” dismantle the Punggye-ri facility in the country’s northeast, inviting some foreign journalists to witness the destruction.

Reporters at the scene described a series of explosions throughout the day, three of them in entry tunnels to the underground facility, followed by explosions that demolished a nearby barracks and other structures.

“There was a huge explosion, you could feel it. Dust came at you, the heat came at you. It was extremely loud,” Tom Cheshire, a journalist for Sky News who was among those invited to attend the ceremony, wrote on the British broadcaster’s website.

Buried inside a mountain in North Hamgyong province, Punggye-ri test facility is near the border with China and is North Korea’s only known nuclear test site.

A satellite image provided by DigitalGlobe shows the nuclear test site in Punggye-ri, North Korea. (DigitalGlobe via AP)

It has been the staging ground for all six of the North’s nuclear tests, including its latest and by far most powerful one in September last year, which Pyongyang said was an H-bomb.

Experts are divided over whether the demolition will render the site useless. Sceptics say the facility has already outlived its usefulness with six successful nuclear tests in the bag and can be quickly rebuilt if needed.
North Korea also did not invite any independent observers from overseas.

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un greets a women’s sub-unit during a rocket launching drill (Reuters/KCNA KCNA)

But others say the fact that North Korea agreed to destroy the site without preconditions or asking for something in return from Washington suggests the regime is serious about change.

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