North Korea Details Plans to Dismantle Nuclear Test Site This Month
(CNN) -- North Korea outlined steps Saturday to dismantle its nuclear testing site -- and confirmed that international journalists, including those from the United States and the United Kingdom, would be invited to watch this month as its tunnels are blown up.
The announcement, by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs as reported by state news agency KCNA, came a day after Pyongyang pledged no longer to carry out unannounced missile tests or other activities that put flights at risk, according to a United Nations aviation agency.
North Korean leader Kim Jong Un previously announced the conclusion of North Korea's nuclear testing program and the intended shuttering of the Punggye-ri complex. He said April 20 that his nation already had "completed its mission" to test its weapons capability.
The statement Saturday gave greater details of the "technical measures" North Korea would take to dismantle the test site and "ensure transparency of discontinuance of the nuclear test."
US President Donald Trump expressed thanks to North Korea on Saturday evening, characterizing the announcement as a "very smart and gracious gesture" ahead of next month's nuclear summit in Singapore.
International journalists will be invited to conduct "on-the-spot coverage in order to show in a transparent manner" how the nuclear site is being put out of use, with a dismantlement "ceremony" scheduled for as early as May 23, depending on weather, the news agency said.
Since space is limited, only journalists from China, Russia, South Korea, the United States and the United Kingdom will be allowed access, according to KCNA.
First, explosives will be used to collapse the tunnels, KCNA said. Then, entries to the site will be blocked and all observation facilities, research institutes and guard structures will be removed. Guards and researchers will be withdrawn, and the area surrounding the test site will be closed.
Located in mountainous terrain in the northeast of the country, Punggye-ri is less than 100 miles (160 kilometers) from China.
South Korea's presidential office said last month that Kim planned to shut down his nuclear test site in May, following landmark talks between Kim and South Korea's President Moon Jae-in. Kim refuted claims by Chinese scientists that parts of the site had been so badly damaged by previous explosions, particularly its sixth and last test in September, that it may now be unusable, Moon's office added.
The latest developments come a day after US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo told reporters that he'd had "warm" and "good" conversations with Kim. His talks in North Korea were part of preparations for the planned summit on June 12.
(PHOTO: AFP/Getty Images)