Punggye-ri nuclear site destroyed, Trump says no to the summit
Explosions began at 11 am and ended at 4 pm destroying three of four tunnels. Tunnel 1 had been abandoned years ago. The operation was videotaped, and images will be available tomorrow, when reporters reach Wonson. Critics express doubts because no nuclear expert was present and radiation levels were not measured after equipment was confiscated. The dismantling had been announced ahead of the summit between Kim and Trump, but the US president said the latter would not take place because of Pyongyang’s "hostile" behaviour.
Seoul (AsiaNews/Agencies) – North Korea destroyed the Punggye-ri nuclear test site with a series of explosions. Journalists present phoned in the news but radiation levels could not be measured.
The operation began at 11 am (local time) after North Korean authorities asked reporters if they were ready to film the first blast. Then the counted down started.
“With a heavy boom that shook Mount Mantap, dirt and broken rocks spilled out from the entrance,” South Korean media reported.
A CNN crew at the remote mountain site in the country's north witnessed explosions at nuclear tunnels 2, 3 and 4, from observation decks about 500 metres away.
Before the explosions, the journalists said they were invited to look inside three of the four tunnels.
The North Portal, also referred to as Tunnel No. 2, was the first to go. Two other tunnels were destroyed around 2.17 pm, followed by the barracks, observation towers and other facilities in the area.
The explosions ended two hours later. The journalists said without clarifying whether Tunnel No. 1, or the East Portal, was destroyed as well.
Among the four tunnels in the zone, the East Portal had been abandoned earlier, this according to 38 North, a US-based website. North Korean authorities said that the tunnel was closed in 2006, after it was used for one test.
Plumes of smoke soon covered the mountain.
Reporters and television crews from the United States, China, Russia and Great Britain were invited to witness the ceremony. It is not clear if Kim Jong-un was present.
After the show, journalists travelled to Wonsan, a city on the east coast of the country.
Located in the north of the country, below Mount Mantap, the Punggye-ri site became famous because six nuclear tests were carried out in it, the last one in September, raising concerns and fears about a possible nuclear war.
In recent weeks, some Chinese experts had speculated that the site was already unusable because of those tests.
However, Kim Jong-un apparently said that only two tunnels were already out of use, a claim backed by US intelligence.
South Korea is cheering the news. "(We) expect it to serve as a chance for complete denuclearisation going forward," said Noh Kyu-duk, spokesman for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
The destruction of the nuclear site was seen as an important step ahead of the summit between Kim and US President Donald Trump, scheduled for 12 June in Singapore. However, the latter appears to have been cancelled, or at least postponed.
US President Donald Trump just announced that the meeting will not be held because of North Korea’s "hostile" behaviour.
For their part, sceptics criticised Pyongyang's decision not to invite nuclear experts who, unlike journalists, would have been able to assess if the explosions were deep enough to completely destroy the tunnels.
They apparently asked some journalists to measure radiation levels. However, the equipment they carried was seized by North Korean officials.