North Korea prepares nuclear test site for inspectors

Pyongyang says it dismantled Punggye-ri site in May, but did not allow international inspections at the time.

North Korea nuclear
North Korea says it dismantled its nuclear test site, but did not allow international inspections [KCNA via Reuters]

North Korea is preparing its Punggye-ri nuclear test site for international inspectors, Yonhap news agency reported on Wednesday, citing South Korea’s spy agency.

While North Korea has stopped nuclear and missile tests in the past year, it did not allow international inspections of its dismantling of Punggye-ri in May, prompting criticism that its actions were merely for show and could be reversed.

North Korea agreed to allow international inspectors to observe a “permanent dismantlement” of key missile facilities, in return for reciprocal measures by the United States, the South’s President Moon Jae-in said in September.

The country also promised further steps, including the closure of its main Yongbyon nuclear complex, Moon said following his summit with the North’s Kim Jong Un.

Kim vowed to work towards denuclearisation during his unprecedented June summit with US President Donald Trump.

But Pyongyang’s actions have fallen short of US demands for irreversible steps to scrap its arsenal, including a full disclosure of nuclear facilities and materials.

Contentious no-fly zone

Effective on Thursday, a “no-fly” zone between North and South Korea will extend 40km north and south from the Military Demarcation Line in the east and 20km in the west for fixed-wing aircraft.

The agreement also bars live-fire drills involving fixed-wing aircraft and air-to-ground guided weapons in the no-fly area. South Korea and the US had held such drills regularly until halting joint exercises in June.

The military accord, sealed during last month’s summit in Pyongyang, is one of the most concrete agreements between the two Asian neighbours this year.

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo expressed “discontent” with the agreement during a phone call with his counterpart earlier this month.

Source: News Agencies