North Korea Demolishes Its Punggye-ri Nuclear Test Site

Ryan Pickrell | China/Asia Pacific Reporter

A series of theatrical explosions rocked North Korea’s nuclear test site Thursday, this time demolishing the infamous testing facility.

North Korea demolished its Punggye-ri nuclear test site, fulfilling a commitment made by the Kim regime in late April. The destruction of the test site was witnessed by around two dozen journalists from five different countries, but no experts or investigators. (RELATED: North Korea Has Agreed To Close A Major Nuclear Weapons Testing Site)

“The nuclear test and the intercontinental ballistic missile test will be discontinued,” North Korean leader Kim Jong Un said on April 20, according to the Korean Central News Agency. “North Korea’s nuclear test center will be discarded in order to ensure the transparency of the suspension  of the nuclear test.” Without experts on site, though, it is difficult to know exactly what occurred Thursday.

“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,” North Korean state media reported, confirming the demolition.

Foreign witnesses described the demolition of the test site as a wild display of explosive power.

“They counted it down — three, two, one,” Sky News Asia correspondent Tom Cheshire reported, “There was a huge explosion, you could feel it. Dust came at you, the heat came at you. It was extremely loud. It blew an observation tower to complete smithereens.”

“It was all rather spectacular. Huge explosions. Lots of dust,” he revealed.

While North Korea asserts that it has completed its nuclear weapons development program, possibly eliminating the need for additional testing, the international community has largely regarded the decision to close the Punggye-ri test site as a positive sign, a gesture of goodwill.

Some observers have speculated that the test site may be unusable due to a collapse caused by the last test, but evidence suggests that the explosion merely damaged a blast cavity, leaving other testing tunnels intact and suitable for additional testing. North Korea is said to have rigged all of the tunnels with explosives prior to the demolition Thursday.

The Associated Press, which was present for the demolition, reported that the process could likely be reversed should North Korea decide to begin testing nuclear weapons again.

North Korea has carried out a total of six nuclear tests at the Punggye-ri site since 2006. The most recent test on September 3, 2017 involved a two-stage thermonuclear bomb (hydrogen bomb) with an explosive yield significantly larger than anything the North has tested before. (RELATED: Here’s Everything You Need To Know About North Korea’s Soon-To-Be-Destroyed Nuclear Test Site)

Thursday’s demolition of the nuclear test site comes just three weeks ahead of President Donald Trump’s planned summit with Kim, which Trump canceled Thursday.

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