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(LEAD) N. Korea calls dismantling of nuclear site 'significant measure': report

13:56 May 20, 2018

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SEOUL, May 20 (Yonhap) -- North Korea on Sunday stressed the importance of its dismantling the Punggye-ri nuclear test site this week and called it a "significant measure" amid reports the North has disregarded South Korea's roster of journalists planning to cover the dismantlement.

The decommissioning of the site is "a very meaningful and significant measure" undertaken voluntarily by the North to achieve the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula based on the spirit of an agreement reached at a historic inter-Korean summit, North Korea's propaganda website DPRK Today said.

DPRK stands for the Democratic People's Republic of Korea, the North's official name. The leaders of the two Koreas met on April 27 at the truce village of Panmujom on the inter-Korean border.

DPRK Today referred to the May 12 announcement by the North's foreign ministry that it will hold a ceremony for the dismantling of the nuclear test site between Wednesday and Friday and invite journalists from China, Russia, the United States, Britain and the South to cover it.

On Saturday, another North Korean propaganda website, Uriminzokkiri, carried a commentary in which the North said it does not give the slightest consideration to "a mental patient's grumble" in the South. "The international community as well as the United States and South Korea is giving a great deal of support to the dismantlement," it said.

In the commentaries carried by the two propaganda websites, the North lambasted conservative forces in the South, including the main opposition Liberty Korea Party, for underestimating the planned closure of the site. Pyongyang apparently aims to stress the importance of the dismantlement by raising the issue again.

South Korea's unification ministry handling inter-Korean affairs said Friday the North had not responded to the list of South Korean journalists chosen to attend the ceremony.

South Korea tried to notify North Korea of the names of journalists through the communication channel at Panmunjom, but the North did not respond, prompting the South and the international community to focus on whether the planned decommissioning of the site will take place.

The North's move came on the heels of its cancellation of a ministerial-level meeting with the South planned for Wednesday, citing joint military drills carried out by Seoul and Washington undermined the recent inter-Korean reconciliation.

(LEAD) N. Korea calls dismantling of nuclear site 'significant measure': report - 1

On Sunday, a South Korean source acknowledged that North Korea has shown signs of restoring sections of a railway between the eastern coastal city of Wonsan and Kilju in North Hamgyong Province, where the Punggye-ri site is located, and of testing trains on the railway.

It will likely to take more than seven hours for a train to arrive at Kilju from Wonsan even at full speed, given that the 270 kilometer railway is decrepit and has many sections that need restoring, the source said.

Another government source said, "We have obtained signs of the North restoring the railway and implementing train test runs since last week." The source added that the North is apparently making preparations to transport a group of foreign journalists who are allowed to attend the ceremony to the site.

Satellite imagery shows that North Korea is preparing to build a stand for visitors to observe the dismantling of its nuclear test site, 38 North, a U.S. website monitoring the North, has said. The imagery from May 15 indicates that steps are being taken to close down the Punggye-ri test site.

namsh@yna.co.kr
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