North Korea has conducted all six of its nuclear tests at the Punggye-ri site.
SEOUL (Reuters) – North Korea followed through on a pledge to blow up tunnels at its nuclear test site on Thursday, North Korean state media reported, as part of steps that have reduced tension on the Korean Peninsula and raised the possibility of a summit with the United States.
North Korea has conducted all six of its nuclear tests at the Punggye-ri site, which consists of tunnels dug beneath Mount Mantap in the northeast of the country.
A small group of international media selected by North Korea witnessed the demolition, which Pyongyang says is proof of its commitment to end nuclear testing.
The destruction of the site began at about 11 a.m. with the blowing up and collapsing of a tunnel and an observation post.
North Korea’s state-run news agency KCNA reported there was no leak of radioactive materials or any adverse impact on the surrounding ecological environment.
“Dismantling the nuclear test ground was done in such a way as to make all the tunnels of the test ground collapse by explosion and completely close the tunnel entrances, and at the same time, explode some guard facilities and observation posts on the site,” KCNA reported.
The South Korean government welcomed the test site destruction by calling it “the first meaningful step to realize complete denuclearization which North Korea expressed through including the inter-Korean summit.”
South Korean media described how North Korean authorities called out to media to ask if they were ready to film the first blast. They then counted down.
“With a heavy boom that shook Mount Mantap, dirt and broken rocks spilled out from the entrance,” South Korean media reported.
After some time, another tunnel and other facilities were destroyed, then a third tunnel and another observation post. About five hours after the operation began, two military barracks were demolished, South Korean media said.
The North Korean offer to scrap the test site has been seen as a major concession in months of easing decades of tension with South Korea and the United States.
North Korea announced in April it would suspend nuclear and missile tests and scrap the test site and instead pursue economic growth and peace.