North Korea has begun to dismantle the range in Pungere

Charlene Craig
May 15, 2018

South Korea's president on Monday welcomed the announcement as the beginning of North Korea's nuclear disarmament.

The analysis was made public before North Korea holds a ceremony for dismantling the Punggye-ri site between May 23 and May 25, depending on weather conditions, in the presence of global media.

Pyongyang said at the weekend it will "completely" destroy the Punggye-ri test site, in a ceremony scheduled between May 23-25 in front of invited foreign media.

KCNA said journalists, including from the United States and South Korea, would be invited to cover the event, to "show in a transparent manner the dismantlement of the northern nuclear test ground to be carried out".

But North Korea has not made public what concessions it is offering, and the South's JoongAng Ilbo daily noted it had only invited journalists to witness the operation at the Punggye-ri site.

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"It would, however, require North Korea to clear out the test tunnels and rebuild any infrastructure that might be removed or dig new tunnels at the site or elsewhere". The country's leader, Kim Jong Un, pledged last month to refrain from conducting nuclear tests and close Punggye-ri, which is located fewer than 100 miles from North Korea's border with China.

Chinese scientists claimed that the final test in 2017 caused serious damage to the mountain test site and created a serious risk of collapse, making it unsafe for further testing.

Dialogue brokered by South Korea has seen US-North Korea relations go from trading personal insults and threats of war previous year to a summit between Kim and Trump which will be held in Singapore on June 12. Dismantling test field may show a desire not to continue trials, but it does not imply that country is willing to deliver its nuclear arsenal.

"In the end, North Korea will remain 'a nuclear power packaged as a non-nuclear state, '" Thae told the South's Newsis news agency.

Pyongyang's pledge could open the way for airlines to route flights through North Korean airspace.

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Thae emphasized that Kim would demand an assurance of safety against any attacks on North Korea by other countries in return of denuclearisation.

Pompeo, who has met twice with the North Korean leader to discuss the summit, said he was "convinced" Kim shared United States goals.

"The prospect for North Korea is for it to become a normal nation, to behave and interact with the rest of the world the way South Korea does", he said.

"Now that North Korea has accepted in principle that agreements should be verified, USA negotiators should hold them to this standard for any subsequent agreement", said Adam Mount, a senior defense analyst at the Federation of American Scientists.

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