North Korea Dismantling Nuclear Site, Says US Monitor

People watch a TV screen reporting that North Korea will dismantle nuke test site during a news programme at the Seoul Railway Station in Seoul. Ahn Young-joon  AP

People watch a TV screen reporting that North Korea will dismantle nuke test site during a news programme at the Seoul Railway Station in Seoul. Ahn Young-joon  AP

The Punggye-ri site in the northeast of the country was used for all of the North's six nuclear tests and lies deep within mountains.

The United States and South Korea have welcomed the announcement as the beginning of North Korea's nuclear disarmament.

The United States, he said, was looking forward to the June 12 summit between Kim and Trump, who only a few short months ago were swapping insults and both openly threatening devastating direct action. It comes ahead of a historic US-North Korea summit.

The top USA diplomat did not elaborate, but his comment could refer to the type of assurances North Korea has sought in the past.

Nuclear experts say the shutdown plan is at least an encouraging political gesture ahead of talks with the United States in June.

That planning includes a visit to the White House next week by South Korea President Moon Jae-in for a meeting with Trump.

State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert says Kim had previously indicated he understood the need and goal of the USA continuing its long-planned joint exercises with South Korea.

White House spokeswoman Sarah Sanders said the administration "will look at what North Korea has said independently, and continue to coordinate closely with our allies".

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The ventilation system for the tunnel system under Mount Mantap, which covers the testing facilities, also was apparently being broken down, the report added. Yonhap reported that the two-week military exercise between the Americans and South Koreans began Friday.

After Saturday's announcement, President TrumpDonald John TrumpRomney denounces pastor slated to speak at U.S. embassy in Jerusalem Pentagon finds problems with Kushner-backed health program: report Apple CEO Tim Cook praises Parkland, "Me Too" activists in commencement speech MORE thanked North Korea for its "gracious gesture".

South Korea has said it hopes the summit will lead to "denuclearisation of the Korean Peninsula, as well as permanent peace on the peninsula".

Pyongyang said at the weekend it will "completely" destroy the Punggye-ri test site, in a ceremony scheduled between May 23-25 in front of invited foreign media.

Last week, the North Koreans released three US prisoners, clearing the way for Trump to announce the date and location of the summit with Kim.

Washington's demand for the removal of North Korea's nuclear weapons was set as part of preparatory talks before the Singapore summit.

"The Nuclear Weapon Institute and other concerned institutions are taking technical measures for dismantling the northern nuclear test order to ensure transparency of discontinuance of the nuclear test", North Korean press agency KCNA said earlier this week.

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