Foreign media head to North Korea to witness nuclear site shutdown

BEIJING - A group of roughly two dozen journalists from Western and Chinese news organisations departed for North Korea on Tuesday to witness the closure of its nuclear test site.

Journalists from the Associated Press, CNN, CBS, Russia Today and Chinese state media outlets were among those seen checking in at Beijing Capital International Airport to catch a 9:00 a.m. (0100 GMT) Air Koryo flight, which took off at 9:48 a.m., according to the airport's website.

Numerous other news organisations, including Reuters, had also sought to cover the shutdown of the North's nuclear test site but were denied invitations to visit the country.

Pyongyang invited a handful of international media to witness the dismantling of the Punggye-ri site some time between May 23 and May 25 but not technical experts, even though the United States has called for "a permanent and irreversible closure that can be inspected and fully accounted for".

Diplomatically isolated North Korea, under UN security Council sanctions for its nuclear and ballistic missile programs, announced the planned shutdown of its nuclear test site amid a dramatic round of contact with its long-time bitter rivals, South Korea and the United States.

However, North Korea has since threatened to pull out of a summit meeting between leader Kim Jong Un and US President Donald Trump in Singapore on June 12.

Also read: N. Korea will never fully give up nuclear weapons: Top defector