A dozen international journalists have flown into North Korea to watch what the country says will be the shutdown of its only known nuclear test site.
North Korea is about to blow up its nuclear site
US President Donald Trump had cheered North Korea’s offer last month to dismantle the Punggye-ri site as a “very good news” ahead of a planned meeting with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un.
Should we get ready to fire the confetti cannons? Not so fast.
Pyongyang has never said it will abandon the nuclear weapons it had already built – Kim said the country would close the site because it “has done its job” – and now the summit may not happen as scheduled, if at all.
"There are certain conditions that we want, and I think we'll get those conditions, and if we don't we don't have the meeting,” he said Tuesday before meeting with his South Korean counterpart, President Moon Jae-in.
Trump said he’d “rather not say” what the conditions are, but he said that denuclearization “must take place.”
Although Kim had agreed to “denuclearization” on the Korean peninsula after his historic meeting (and hand-holding) with Moon, North Korea and the US have yet to agree on how it’s to be carried out.
Still, North Korea’s closing of its Punggye-ri site, where it conducted all six of its nuclear tests, is a symbolic move – if not a spectacle.
North Korea invited earlier this month journalists from China, Russia, the United States, Britain and South Korea to watch a ceremony at the site that would start Wednesday, weather permitting.
Analysts, using satellite imagery, have identified spots outside the site that’d allow journalists to observe the closure from a safe distance.
Pyongyang said it would collapse the test tunnels using explosions, and then seal off entry.
On Wednesday evening, journalists from US, Russia, South Korea and China began their trip from the North Korean city Wonsan to the remote test site some 200 miles away.
#breaking Just learned we’ll depart for the North Korean nuclear site at Punggye Ri at 5:10pm local time, just over one hour from now. We may not have have phone or internet for the journey, but we should have some extraordinary images from a place never seen by foreign press.— Will Ripley (@willripleyCNN) May 23, 2018
Skeptics point out a similar spectacle nearly 10 years ago, when despite North Korea’s move to blow up a nuclear cooling tower, denuclearization talks didn’t go far.
That being said, the prospect of stability is real enough for some Chinese speculators, who have poured money into property in a Chinese city bordering North Korea.