On May 24, 2018, North Korea stated it had destroyed its only nuclear testing site. This announcement came three weeks before North Korean leader Kim Jong Un is scheduled to meet with United States President Donald J. Trump.
North Korea allowed journalists from China, Britain, the United States, and South Korea to watch as engineers destroyed and closed tunnels to the Punggye-re test site where six nuclear tests have been conducted. Independent, outside nuclear monitors were not invited to verify the dismantling of the site.
The destruction of the nuclear testing site came two days after Trump backed away from the demand that Kim abandon his nuclear arsenal.
During the ceremony, North Korea used explosives to destroy three of the four tunnels to the Punggye-ri testing site, according to reporters on the scene. The fourth tunnel was already closed due to fear of contamination after the first nuclear test in 2006.
Kim also blew up test-observation facilities, barracks for site personnel, and a metal foundry, according to reports. North Korea invited 24 international journalists to witness the event from viewing decks that were 500 yards away. They filmed the detonations.
Mostly television journalists were invited to ensure the explosions would be broadcast worldwide.
The demolition was the first solid step taken by Kim toward what will hopefully be a complete nuclear shutdown.
Last month, North Korea announced it would end all nuclear and long-range ballistic missile testing and close the Punggye-ri test site. Kim said the country no longer needed to conduct tests because they already had nuclear weapons and wanted to rebuild the economy.
It is unclear if Kim will give up the country’s entire arsenal. It is also not clear if all the tunnels at the test site were destroyed, or if the test site will be able to be used again despite the explosions. There were no weapons experts present for the blasts to assess the true extent of the destruction.
Written by Jeanette Smith
The New York Times: North Korea Says It Shut Nuclear Test Site Ahead of Planned Meeting With Trump
Featured Image Courtesy of David Stanley’s Flickr Page – Creative Commons License
Top Image Courtesy of (stephan)’s Flickr Page – Creative Commons License