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North Korea has begun dismantling nuclear test site: analysis

North Korea has begun dismantling nuclear test site: analysis
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Commercial satellite imagery shows North Korea has begun dismantling its nuclear test site, according to an analysis from a prominent U.S.-based monitor.

“After initial reporting of plans to allow experts and media personnel to observe the closing of North Korea’s Punggye-ri Nuclear Test Site, now scheduled for next week, commercial satellite imagery from May 7 provided the first definitive evidence that dismantlement of the test site was already well underway,” researchers for 38 North wrote in the analysis posted Monday.

Among the evidence cited by 38 North is that several key operational support buildings have been razed since its last analysis in April, along with the removal of several small sheds and outbuildings.

Additionally, some of the rails for the mining carts appear to have been removed, while some carts look like they have been tipped over or disassembled, the monitor said.

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Still, the larger buildings, including the two largest at the Command Center and the Main Administrative Support Area, are intact, as are the entrances to the tunnels used for nuclear testing.

The analysis said that could be because North Korea has promised to invite foreign journalists to witness the site’s final dismantling.

North Korea announced last month that it “no longer need[s]” nuclear and missile tests because the country has "verified the completion of nuclear weapons.” As such, it said, it would shutter the Punggye-ri site.

Some analysts, citing seismological findings, have said there are signs Punggye-ri is no longer useable anyway after a tunnel collapse from the last nuclear test, though 38 North has said other tunnels remain viable to use.

On Saturday, North Korean state media said the dismantlement would take place some time between May 23 and 25 and that it would involve collapsing all of its tunnels with explosions, blocking its entrances, and removing all observation facilities, research buildings and security posts.

After Saturday’s announcement, President TrumpDonald John TrumpDemocrats slide in battle for Senate Trump believes Kushner relationship with Saudi crown prince a liability: report Christine Blasey Ford to be honored by Palo Alto City Council MORE thanked North Korea for its “gracious gesture.”

“North Korea has announced that they will dismantle Nuclear Test Site this month, ahead of the big Summit Meeting on June 12th. Thank you, a very smart and gracious gesture!” he tweeted. 

Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un are set to meet June 12 in Singapore for the first ever summit between a sitting U.S. president and a North Korean leader.