By Martin Quin Pollard
BEIJING (Reuters) – A group of roughly two dozen journalists from Western and Chinese news organisations departed for North Korea on Tuesday to witness the closure of its nuclear test site, an indication that the shut-down will go ahead.
Pyongyang invited a handful of international media to witness the dismantling of the Punggye-ri site some time between May 23 and May 25 but not technical experts, even though the United States has called for “a permanent and irreversible closure that can be inspected and fully accounted for”.
Isolated North Korea’s offer to scrap the test site was seen as a key concession in months of easing tension between Pyongyang and its long-time bitter rivals, South Korea and the United States.
However, the improving diplomatic environment has hit a rocky patch, with North Korea threatening to pull out of a summit meeting between leader Kim Jong Un and U.S. President Donald Trump in Singapore planned for June 12.
Journalists from the Associated Press, CNN, CBS, Russia Today and Chinese state media outlets were among those seen checking in at Beijing Capital International Airport to catch a 9:00 a.m. (0100 GMT) Air Koryo flight, which took off at 9:48 a.m., according to the airport’s website.
Numerous other news organisations, including Reuters, had also sought to cover the shutdown of the North’s nuclear test site but were denied invitations to visit the country.
(Writing by Tony Munroe; Editing by Paul Tait)