Kim Jong Un appears to be moving forward with his promise to denuclearize the Korean peninsula, as he invited foreign journalists to witness the dismantling of North Korea’s underground test site. The closure is expected to take place between May 23 and 25, weeks before the planned Trump-Kim summit which is scheduled for June 12 in Singapore.
Countries with open invitations for journalists to attend the dismantling include the U.S., China, Russia, and Britain. South Korean journalists are also invited. There is going to be a ceremony to commemorate the closure of the nuclear test site, and Kim is looking for global coverage of the event, reported the New York Times.
The site is called the Puggye-ri nuclear test site, and it’s believed to be where all six of the nuclear tests have taken place. It’s an underground facility with a network of tunnels under a mountain called Mount Mantap. During the ceremony, the tunnels, observation posts, and all facilities are going to be destroyed, detailed NPR.
Kim first announced his intent to shut down the site during talks with South Korean President Moon Jae-in on April 27. Journalists will fly into Wonsan, North Korea on a charter flight leaving Beijing. The journalists will then ride a train to the test site.
North Korea released a statement explaining their decision to hold the ceremony and inviting journalists, saying they wished to offer “on-the-spot coverage in order to show in a transparent manner the dismantlement of the northern nuclear test ground,” detailed BBC News.
Critics wonder if Kim is truly genuine in his announced efforts to denuclearize. Some believe that all the steps he’s taking are being done in order to break free from current sanctions and to stop threats of U.S. military action in North Korea.
Also, some believe that Kim is only closing the test site because it has been irreparably damaged. Around September 2017, a nuclear test resulted in aftershock earthquakes, and experts believe it destroyed part of Mount Mantap.
Although this announcement is historic, it’s not the first time similar events have taken place. Previously in 2008, North Korea dismantled a facility in Yongbyon, where plutonium was reportedly being extracted for later use in nuclear testing. Foreign journalists attended the event when the building was destroyed in a matter of minutes.
And back in 1994, the U.S. under Bill Clinton threatened military action against North Korea, when the U.S. learned that Kim was setting up a facility for plutonium. The U.S. told Kim that they would help North Korea economically if they stopped their nuclear program, and Kim agreed. However, in 2002, the deal was nullified when Kim did not abide by the agreement.