North Korea on Thursday kept its promise to blow up tunnels at its nuclear test site at Punggye-ri, in the full glare of a section of world media despite lingering doubts over its coming summit with the United States.
The reclusive nation had conducted all six of its nuclear tests at the site, which consists of tunnels dug beneath Mount Mantap in the northeast of the country.
A small group of international media selected by North Korea consisting of under two dozens journalists – was on hand to witness the demolition, which Pyongyang says is proof of its commitment to end nuclear testing.
South Korean media described how North Korean authorities called out to media to ask if they were ready to film the first blast. They then counted down.
“With a heavy boom that shook Mount Mantap, dirt and broken rocks spilled out from the entrance,” South Korean media reported, adding that two military barracks were also demolished.
The North Korean offer to scrap the test site has been seen as a major concession in months of easing tension between it, on the one hand, and South Korea and the United States on the other.
Chairman Kim Jong-Un in a speech in April said he wanted to pursue economic growth and peace, but progress appears to have suffered a setback this month with the North objecting to U.S. demands that it unilaterally give up its arsenal of nuclear bombs and ballistic missiles.
Though Trump sought to placate North Korea after it threatened to call off the summit, a reference to former Libyan dictator Muammar Gaddafi’s further angered North Korea, who claimed they “paid a heavy price to build up our powerful and reliable strength that can defend ourselves and safeguard peace and security in the Korean peninsula and the region.”
With the fate of the summit uncertain, White House aides are preparing to travel to Singapore this weekend for a crucial meeting with North Korean officials to discuss the agenda and logistics.