Satellite images showed the first definitive evidence that the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK) is dismantling its Punggye-ri nuclear site ahead of a scheduled ceremony next week to mark the event, a U.S. research institute said on Monday.
Images captured on May 7 showed that the process was "already well underway" at the site, which has been used six underground nuclear tests in the past, an American institute, 38 North, said in a report.
Several operational support buildings, located just outside the north, west and south tunnel portals, had been demolished, while some of the rails for mining carts, which had led from the tunnels to their respective spoil piles, had apparently been removed, the report said, by comparing images captured between April 20 and May 7.
Footage also showed some carts appeared to have been disassembled, and several outbuilding around the site removed.
The DPRK announced on Saturday it would invite international media to observe the demolition of the site. The United States and Republic of Korea welcomed the announcement.
On Monday, United Nations Secretary General Antonio Guterres also praised the move, calling it an "important confidence-building step."
"I would like to welcome that and to say that the irreversible closure of the site will be an important confidence-building measure that will contribute to further efforts towards sustainable peace and verifiable denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula," Guterres said in a statement.
He said he hopes the positive sign of de-escalating the regional tension could further be consolidated during U.S.-DPRK leaders' meeting next month.