Thu, May 24, 2018 - Page 1 News List

Reporters travel to Punggye-ri amid summit doubts

AIT EFFECT:The opening of the AIT’s new compound is itself significant, even if top US officials are unable to attend due to the summit, the foreign minister said

AFP, SEOUL

South Korean journalists yesterday arrive at Kalma Airport in Wonsan, North Korea.

Photo: News1 / Reuters

Foreign journalists yesterday began a long journey up North Korea’s east coast to witness the slated destruction of the Punggye-ri nuclear test site, a high-profile gesture on the road to a summit with the US that US President Donald Trump on Tuesday said might not happen.

The demolition is due to take place sometime between today and Friday, depending on the weather.

The North has portrayed the move as a goodwill gesture ahead of a planned June 12 summit between North Korean leader Kim Jong-un and Trump in Singapore.

However, doubts have since been cast by both sides on whether that historic meeting will take place.

Pyongyang last week threatened to pull out if Washington pressed for unilateral nuclear disarmament, while Trump in a meeting with South Korean President Moon Jae-in in Washington said that the meeting could be delayed.

“There are certain conditions we want to happen. I think we’ll get those conditions, and if we don’t, we won’t have the meeting,” he told reporters.

The destruction of the site would win Pyongyang international sympathy, even if the summit collapses, Asan Institute for Policy Studies analyst Go Myong-hyun said.

A handful of foreign journalists set off from Wonsan yesterday at about 8am, according to tweets from some of the reporters. They are expected to travel for about 20 hours by train, bus and finally a short hike to the remote test site.

Pyongyang only yesterday granted South Korean journalists permission to attend.

Meanwhile, the planned Trump and Kim summit might affect the list of US officials visiting Taiwan for the dedication of the new American Institute in Taiwan (AIT) compound in Taipei, Minister of Foreign Affairs Joseph Wu (吳釗燮) said yesterday.

At a meeting of the Legislative Yuan’s Foreign Affairs and National Defense Committee, Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) Legislator Wang Ding-yu (王定宇) asked Wu whether the number of high-ranking US officials attending the ceremony on June 12 would be affected by the summit.

Wu said that it could, but that the compound is itself “of great significance.”

The AIT would probably inform the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the list at a later date, he said, adding that the ministry would welcome anyone the US sends.

If President Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) attends the ceremony alongside low-ranking US officials, it would be unequal, DPP Legislator Tsai Shih-ying (蔡適應) said, to which Wu reiterated that the opening of the compound itself is significant.

Additional reporting by Peng Wan-hsin

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