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N. Korea nuke test site dismantling date approaches but int'l journos left in waiting

This image made from video shows foreign media activity outside the Kalma Hotel in Wonsan, North Korea, Tuesday, May 22, 2018. (AP Photo)
Sky News Asia correspondent Tom Cheshire tweets that international reporters are still waiting in Wonsan for departure to the Punggye-ri nuclear test site in northeastern North Korea.

SEOUL -- North Korea's planned dismantling of the Punggye-ri nuclear test site in the country's northeast is now likely to begin on May 24 or 25, but the international press corps invited by Pyongyang to cover the event have yet to leave their staging point of Wonsan as of May 23. It would take at least 18 hours to reach the site 500 kilometers away using a combination of train, bus and foot.

    North Korea had announced that a ceremony to mark the start of the dismantling of the site, including the blasting away of some structures, would take place from May 23 through May 25. Sky News Asia correspondent Tom Cheshire tweeted on the morning of May 23 that reporters are still waiting for the special train to take them toward Punggye-ri. The original schedule was to depart Wonsan at 7 p.m. on May 22, but the trip was suspended due to bad weather.

    To reach the test site in the mountains, the reporters will have to complete a 12-hour train ride, then take a bus for four hours, before finishing with a two-hour hike.

    The online edition of Sky News reported that North Korean officials confiscated a satellite phone and radiation dosimeter from the reporters upon their arrival at an airport in Wonsan. The reporters complained but the officials replied that there is no need for the detectors because the test site is safe.

    North Korea invited journalists from four countries -- the United States, Britain, Russia and China, and accepted on May 23 a list of South Korean reporters requesting to join in the coverage of the dismantling.

    After witnessing the dismantling activities, the journalists are going to return to Wonsan to file their reports.

    (Japanese original by Akiko Horiyama, Seoul Bureau)

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