North Korea will destroy its nuclear test site later this month, ahead of a summit with the United States, it said Saturday, blowing up its tunnels in front of invited foreign media.
The display at Punggye-ri, in the northwest of the country, will be another step in leader Kim Jong Un’s charm offensive.
Dialogue brokered by Seoul has seen US-North Korea relations go from trading personal insults and threats of war last year to a summit between Kim and President Donald Trump due in Singapore on June 12.
But sceptics warn that Pyongyang has yet to make any public commitment to give up its arsenal, which includes missiles capable of reaching the United States.
Washington is seeking the “complete, verifiable and irreversible denuclearisation” of the North.
Punggye-ri has hosted all six of the North’s nuclear tests, the latest and by far the most powerful in September last year, which Pyongyang said was an H-bomb.
Kim has declared the development of the North’s nuclear force complete and that it had no further need for the site.
A ceremony for the dismantling of the facility has been scheduled between May 23 and 25, Pyongyang’s foreign ministry said, according to news agency.
The tunnels of the test site would be blown up and their entrances completely blocked, the ministry statement said.
All observation facilities and research institutes would be removed, along with guards, it said, “and the surrounding area of the test ground be completely closed”.
Reporters from China, Russia, the United States, Britain and South Korea would be allowed to cover the event on site to show it “in a transparent manner”.
The limit on foreign journalists was due to the “small space of the test ground” which it said was “located in the uninhabited deep mountain area”.
It is the latest move in a rapid sequence of events on the Korean peninsula triggered by the Winter Olympics in the South.
Tensions had been mounting for years as Pyongyang’s nuclear weapons and ballistic missile programmes saw it subjected to multiple rounds of increasingly strict sanctions by the UN Security Council, the US, EU, South Korea and others, and Trump last year threatened the North with “fire and fury”.