Footage of North Korea’s nuclear test site being demolished was released late Thursday after a group of international journalists witnessed the alleged closure of the mountainous location.
Captured by reporters from the United States, Britain, South Korea, Russia and China, video shows explosions at numerous testing tunnels and buildings across Punggye-ri.
Journalists on site say they were shown the entrance to each tunnel, which appeared to be packed with explosives, prior to their destruction taking place.
“They let us go up to three different tunnels, they opened the door… they were very dark,” CNN’s Will Ripley said. “We weren’t allowed to go inside the tunnels, but we saw, essentially, explosives as far as we could see down into the tunnels.”
A North Korean soldier also showed journalists the alleged locations of explosives deep within the tunnel network.
“The members of the international press corps were briefed on the methods and order of dismantlement of the test ground, and went round tunnels where nuclear tests had been carried out in the past, tunnels ready for immediately and safely conducting powerful nuclear tests and the test observation centers,” North Korean state-run media outlet KCNA said.
“They counted it down — three, two, one,” Sky News reporter Tom Cheshire said. “There was a huge explosion, you could feel it. Dust came at you, the heat came at you. It was extremely loud. It blew an observation tower to complete smithereens.”
Plans to close North Korea’s only known nuclear test site, home to all six of its nuclear explosions, were announced last month.
Pyongyang, stating it had “realized nuclear weaponization,” claimed the site was now unnecessary following the test of a suspected thermonuclear weapon late last year.
Despite the apparent goodwill gesture, analysts note that no international experts, who would be able to assess whether the site was actually rendered inoperable, were allowed to attend the site’s closure.
Punggye-ri’s reported closure came just hours before U.S. President Donald Trump cancelled next month’s summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un.
Trump citied Pyongyang’s recent “anger and open hostility” – a reference to North Korea’s attacks on U.S. Vice President Mike Pence for threats to use the “Libya model” against the Kim regime – as the reason for cancelling the meeting.
On Friday both Trump and North Korea released statements saying that the meeting could still potentially take place.
The Trump administration is calling on North Korea to denuclearize up front before any concessions are made, a proposal Pyongyang has vehemently refused.