North Korea preps nuclear site demolition | Daily News

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North Korea preps nuclear site demolition

People bow as they pay their respects before the statues of late North Korean leaders Kim Il Sung and Kim Jong Il, at Mansu hill in Pyongyang. Thousands of North Korean devotees laid flowers before statues of the country’s founder Kim Il Sung on the anniversary of his birth. Current leader Kim Jong Un is the third of the dynasty to head the nuclear-armed country. - AFP
People bow as they pay their respects before the statues of late North Korean leaders Kim Il Sung and Kim Jong Il, at Mansu hill in Pyongyang. Thousands of North Korean devotees laid flowers before statues of the country’s founder Kim Il Sung on the anniv

SOUTH KOREA: Invited foreign journalists gathered in North Korea on Wednesday to witness the slated destruction of the reclusive regime’s nuclear test site, a high profile gesture on the road to a summit with the US that Donald Trump now says might not happen.

In a surprise announcement Pyongyang said earlier this month that it planned to “completely” destroy the Punggye-ri facility in the country’s northeast, a move welcomed by Washington and Seoul.

Punggye-ri has been the site of all six of the North’s nuclear tests, the latest and by far the most powerfulin September last year, which Pyongyang said was an H-bomb.

The demolition is due to take place sometime between Wednesday and Friday, depending on the weather.

The North has portrayed the destruction on the test site as a goodwill gesture ahead of planned June 12 summit between Kim and Trump in Singapore.

But doubts have since been cast by both sides on whether that potentially historic meeting will take place.

Last week Pyongyang threatened to pull out if Washington pressed for its unilateral nuclear disarmament. Trump also said the meeting could be delayed as he met with South Korean leader Moon Jae-in in Washington on Tuesday. “There are certain conditions we want to happen. I think we’ll get those conditions. And if we don’t, we won’t have the meeting,” he told reporters, without elaborating on what those conditions might be.

Politically, Trump has invested heavily in the success of his meeting with Kim, and so privately most US officials, as well as outside observers, believe it will go ahead.

But as the date draws near, Trump’s divergence from his top aides, the differences between the two sides and these high stakes are coming into sharp relief. “Everything is on thin ice,” Koo Kab-woo, a professor at the University of North Korean Studies in Seoul, told AFP.

Experts are divided over whether the demolition will render the site useless. Sceptics say the site has already outlived its usefulness with six successful nuclear tests in the bag and can quickly be rebuilt if needed. Go Myong-hyun, an analyst at the Asan Institute for Policy Studies, said both sides were playing “a game of chicken” in the run up to the summit “to gain an upper hand in negotiations”.

He said the destruction of the Punggye-ri test site would win Pyongyang international sympathy even if the summit collapses. - AFP


 

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