Donald Trump has thanked North Korea for announcing it intends to begin dismantling its nuclear test site in a ceremony set to take place between 23 and 25 May, according to reports in state media.
The ceremony will come just weeks before Kim Jong-un meets President Trump in Singapore for a historic leaders’ summit on 12 June.
Mr Trump called the move “a very smart and gracious gesture” as he offered his thanks in a tweet.
Observers had thought North Korea’s main test site at Punggye-ri had collapsed following the most recent – and most powerful – of repeated trial nuclear tests. The dismantling of the site may be a PR move by Mr Kim, but it will nevertheless be a welcome one in the White House with Mr Trump having pushed for Pyongyang to give up its nuclear programme.
Korean Central News Agency said the dismantlement of the site would involve collapsing all of the site’s tunnels with explosions, blocking entrances and removing all observation facilities, research buildings and security posts.
Journalists from other countries, including the US and South Korea, will be invited to cover the event.
At last month’s landmark Panmunjom summit Mr Kim had suggested he would hold such an event, when he and South Korea president Moon Jae-in signed a pledge to seek the denuclearisation of the peninsula.
A recent study suggested significant parts of the Punggye-ri test site had already caved in. Nonetheless, some observers argued sections may still be usable, based on analysis of satellite imagery.
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North Korea has invited the outside world to witness the dismantling of its nuclear facilities before. In June 2008, international broadcasters were allowed to air the demolishing of a cooling tower at the Yongbyon reactor site, a year after the North reached an agreement with the US and four other nations to disable its nuclear facilities in return for an aid package worth about $400m.
Denuclearisation will be the key item on the agenda for Mr Kim and Mr Trump during their summit, though experts have warned that the two sides may have very different ideas of what that means.
Diplomatic contacts between the two countries has increased hugely in recent months, and this week secretary of state Mike Pompeo visited Pyongyang, securing the release of three prisoners.
He later said that if Mr Kim relinquished his nuclear weapons in a permanent and verifiable way the US would be willing to help boost its economy.
Additional reporting by agencies