Viet Nam News
SEOUL — North Korea accepted the list of South Korean journalists chosen to cover the dismantlement of the North’s nuclear test site on Wednesday, allowing the media to travel to the North to observe the high-profile demolition event, the unification ministry said.
The ministry handed over the list of journalists -- four each from a newswire and a broadcaster -- to the North through the communication channel at the truce village of Panmunjom at 9 a.m., and the North accepted it, according to the ministry.
"The government will take necessary steps with regards to the North’s permission of the press corps’ trip to the North, including providing transport," the ministry said in a message sent to reporters.
As the North accepted the list of South Korean journalists, they are expected to fly to the North’s eastern city of Wonsan through the South-North direct flight route, a ministry official said.
They were selected as pool reporters for the South Korean media ahead of the ceremony that the North is planning to host this week to demonstrate the demolition of its Punggye-ri nuclear test site.
The date for the event has yet to be fixed, but it is expected to happen between Wednesday and Friday depending on local weather conditions.
North Korea announced in mid-May that it will publicly shut down the test site located in the country’s northern region in a ceremony to which media from South Korea, China, Russia, the United States and Britain will be invited to cover.
The North had declined to accept the list of South Korean reporters for days without providing any reason or explanation, giving rise to speculation that the foot-dragging might have to do with somewhat cooled relations between the two Koreas after the North’s abrupt cancellation of inter-Korean talks scheduled for last week.
The North unilaterally postponed the high-level talks with the South meant to discuss follow-up measures to the April 27 inter-Korean summit, taking issue with ongoing joint military exercises between South Korea and the United States.
The South Korean government expressed regret over the decision, urging the North to return to talks as soon as possible, but the North ramped up its criticism, threatening that talks will not happen if Seoul and Washington continue their joint military drills.
Meanwhile, the journalists from four other countries, excluding the South Koreans, headed from Beijing to Wonsan on Tuesday by flying on a North Korean Air Koryo plane. They are set to travel by train from Wonsan to an area near the test site.
The Punggye-ri nuclear site, located in a mountainous region of the North, is where the North carried out all six of its nuclear detonation tests. The demolition is deemed a meaningful step toward the complete denuclearisation affirmed by the leaders of the two Koreas during their summit last month.
The move comes ahead of the highly anticipated summit talks between North Korean leader Kim Jong-un and U.S. President Donald Trump. The unprecedented meeting is set to take place in Singapore on June 12. — YONHAP