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North Korea says that it will dismantle its nuclear test site this month

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Ahead of talks with the US in June

Screenshot of Mount Mantap, the location of North Korea’s nuclear test site.
Image: Google Maps

North Korea’s official news agency has reported that the country has scheduled the demolition of the Punggye-ri nuclear test site ahead of talks with the United States next month.

Reuters reports that official Korean Central New Agency says that the site will be decommissioned between May 23rd and 25th, which would include “collapsing all of its tunnels with explosions, blocking its entrances,” and shutting down all of its observation and security facilities. The announcement comes ahead of scheduled talks between US President Donald Trump and DPRK Supreme Leader Kim Jong Un in Singapore on June 12th. State media says that foreign journalists will be invited to witness the decommissioning.

In April, North Korea said that it would pause its nuclear program, although experts weren’t convinced that it was a significant move: the country had halted its missile testing program between 1999 and 2006, and had shuttered and restarted the plant used to produce plutonium. Experts also noted that it’s possible that Kim Jong-Un could be pleased with success of the program, meaning that no further testing is needed. Others noted that the declaration made for good propaganda in advance of the upcoming talks.

The country conducted six nuclear tests between 2006 and September 2017, and claimed that final test was a hydrogen bomb. That blast was the largest conducted by the country, and was so powerful that it dropped Mount Mantap by about a foot and a half and pushed it 12 feet sideways. Given the power of that blast, it’s entirely possible that that test could have rendered the test site useless, meaning that it’s possible that the country isn’t giving up anything by publicly dismantling it.