19:02 GMT +318 September 2018
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    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

    Seoul Hails Upcoming Closure of North Korean Nuclear Facility

    © AP Photo / Airbus Defense & Space/38 North/Pleiades CNES/Spot Image
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    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.

    “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.”

    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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    Tags:
    dismantle, diplomacy, nuclear, Punggye-ri nuclear test site, Democratic Republic of North Korea (DPRK), South Korea
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