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Seoul Hails Upcoming Closure of North Korean Nuclear Facility

© AP Photo / Airbus Defense & Space/38 North/Pleiades CNES/Spot Image This satellite image released and notated by Airbus Defense & Space and 38 North on April 12, 2017, shows the Punggye-ri nuclear test site in North Korea
This satellite image released and notated by Airbus Defense & Space and 38 North on April 12, 2017, shows the Punggye-ri nuclear test site in North Korea - Sputnik International
SEOUL (Sputnik) - The South Korean government has welcomed Pyongyang’s plans to dismantle its only known nuclear test site Punggye-ri, the country’s presidential office said on Sunday.

North Korea has announced that it intends to close the Punggye-ri nuclear polygon in the period from [May] 23 to 25. We welcome this,” the presidential office said in a statement. Pyongyang’s plans demonstrate the willingness to fulfill the promises made at the inter-Korean summit, the statement said.

South Korean President Moon Jae-in presides over the National Security Council at the Presidential Blue House in Seoul, South Korea, September 15, 2017 - Sputnik International
S Korean President Dismisses US Troop Withdrawal After Peace Treaty With North
“The invitation of journalists from various countries also means that the dismantlement of nuclear site will be transparent for the international community,” the presidential office noted.

Meanwhile, South Korean opposition leader Hong Joon-pyo has doubted the sincerity of Pyongyang’s plans.

“North Korea has already deceived the world in 2008 with the cooling tower explosion show … The Punggye-ri nuclear test site shutdown show that they're planning to hold is nothing new," Hong said, as quoted by the Yonhap news agency.

On Saturday, the North Korean state media reported that the ruling party decided to dismantle the test site. The decision comes ahead of historic summit between US President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, slated for June 12. The US president has already welcomed North Korea’s plans to close Punggye-ri, calling it a “smart and gracious gesture.”

In this Nov. 10, 2016 file photo, a TV screen shows pictures of U.S. President-elect Donald Trump, right, and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, at the Seoul Railway Station in Seoul, South Korea - Sputnik International
Trump Welcomes North Korea's Decision to Dismantle Nuclear Test Site
The North Korean leader announced the decommissioning of the Punggye-ri site during his summit with South Korean President Moon Jae-in in late April. In his announcement, Kim explained that Pyongyang’s pursuit for nuclear weapons was complete so the test site was no longer needed.

Pyongyang conducted its last nuclear test in September. The international community has repeatedly condemned North Korea’s nuclear and ballistic missile tests and imposed sanctions on Pyongyang to curb its nuclear program.

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