Pyongyang won't give visas to South Koreans to cover nuclear site closure

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Story highlights

  • North Korea could close its nuclear test site as early as May 23
  • Kim Jong Un announced it would be closed last month

Seoul, South Korea (CNN)South Korean journalists may not be allowed to enter North Korea to cover the closure of Pyongyang's nuclear test site, authorities in Seoul said, less than a week after they were reportedly invited.

A spokesman for South Korea's Unification Ministry, the government bureau in charge of all things North Korea, said that the North Korean government has not accepted visa applications for all of the South Korean journalists who applied to the country.
North Korea's Ministry of Foreign Affairs announced Saturday that the dismantlement "ceremony," which will involve blowing up the tunnels under the sprawling complex known as Punggye-ri, could take place as early as May 23. Journalists from China, Russia, South Korea, the United States and the United Kingdom were to be invited to watch for transparency's sake.
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    Analysts say it will undoubtedly make for good pictures, but note that only journalists are being allowed in the country to watch. There's been no word if nonproliferation experts with the technical know-how to properly verify the site's closure have been extended an invitation.
    North Korean leader Kim Jong Un announced last month that the country would shutter Punggye-ri, declaring that after six underground tests, the site had served its purpose, as the country has completed its quest to achieve nuclear weapons. Analysts say satellite imagery shows that the North Koreans have already begun dismantling equipment.
    Though Kim declared the site's closure was due to his country's success in its nuclear quest rather than acceding to global pressure, many in the international community saw his commitment to no longer test nuclear weapons underground as a positive step in the recent thaw in relations between North Korea and its adversaries.
    But after months of diplomatic rapprochement, the North Korean government has pulled back a bit, expressing displeasure with recent moves by Seoul and Washington.
    Pyongyang has threatened to pull out of next month's planned summit between Kim and US President Donald Trump over recent statements by top White House officials about whether Pyongyang will give up its nuclear weapons. And last week, North Korea canceled talks with the South at the last minute because of a joint military exercises held by the United States and South Korea.
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    Officials from the Trump administration say they expected hiccups like these and are moving forward with summit plans.
    Kim Jong Un's father and predecessor, Kim Jong Il, was known to threaten to cancel international meetings to push for concessions. But other analysts say North Korea may be jockeying to revise the terms of the negotiations to gain an upper hand, rather than squeeze Washington and Seoul for some sort of material gain.