North Korea to let reporters from South visit nuclear testing site

Frederick Owens
May 23, 2018

Pompeo said he was "very hopeful" the summit will take place on June 12 in Singapore, but said "that decision will ultimately be up to Chairman Kim".

Lawmakers' questioning of Pompeo followed Trump's comment Tuesday that "there's a very substantial chance" the meeting would not proceed as scheduled.

North Korea cancelled high-level talks with South Korea, saying the South's joint military exercises with the U.S. - which it had previously said it would tolerate - were a "provocation".

It was the clearest indication to date that the audacious summit Trump agreed to in March may be at risk. Trump said the meeting between the two leaders was not a great meeting as there has been a change in North Korea's attitude after that.

South Korean journalists arrive at the Kalma Airport in Wonsan, North Korea, on Wednesday.

A handful of foreign journalists, including from South Korea, were invited to attend the demolition ceremony.

Mr Pompeo has twice met Mr Kim in Pyongyang.

Trump expressed suspicion that the North's recent aggressive barbs were influenced by Kim's unannounced trip to China two weeks ago - his second in as many months.

But he added: "We'll see".

The trek will involve an 11-hour train ride, a four-hour bus journey and then a hike of another hour, a reporter with Russia's RT said on Twitter. North Korea abruptly canceled talks with South Korea last week and threatened to call of the summit in a dispute over the pace and scope of any "denuclearization" deal.

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For Washington, this will involve considerable sanctions relief, dropping regime change as a long-term US objective, and normalizing relations with the North once the entirety of its nuclear weapons - including all of the centrifuges, research documents, testing sites, and plutonium facilities - are packed up and destroyed to America's satisfaction.The outline of a prospective agreement with the North is not a mystery.

Go Myong-hyun, an analyst at the Asan Institute for Policy Studies, said both sides were playing "a game of chicken" in the run up to the summit "to gain an upper hand in negotiations".

But Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, who has met with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, said the White House and State Department teams are still planning for June 12.

Punggye-ri has so far been the scene of six nuclear tests conducted by Pyongyang.

Eight South Korean journalists were allowed to join those already in the country at the last minute Wednesday morning, after they were initially denied permission to travel to North Korea, for reasons which remain unclear. On Wednesday it was escorting a group of global reporters, including an Associated Press Television crew, to witness the closure of its atomic test site.

To date, North Korea has taken few concrete steps beyond halting the nuclear and missile tests that ratcheted up tensions past year.

"We hope for an early realization of complete denuclearization of the Korean peninsula through a North Korea-U.S. summit and dialogue of various levels, starting with the abolition of the nuclear test site", ministry spokesman Baik Tae-hyun told a news briefing.

Trump asserted that soon after North Korea relinquishes its nuclear power, Kim would make his country "rich" and "proud". The North also threatened to abandon the planned Trump-Kim meeting over US insistence on rapidly denuclearizing the peninsula, issuing a harshly worded statement that the White House dismissed as a negotiating ploy.

North Korea has always justified its nuclear program as a deterrent against perceived US hostility.

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