By Alex Jensen
North Korea finally accepted a list of South Korean journalists Wednesday to report on this week's dismantling of the reclusive state's nuclear test site, according to Seoul's Unification Ministry.
The eight reporters are travelling to the North directly from South Korea despite initially being unable to join foreign counterparts who took a chartered flight from China a day earlier to attend the closure of the site at Punggye-ri.
Seoul had tried and failed for several days to have the list of South Korean journalists approved, but Pyongyang failed to respond after the North's abrupt decision to call off inter-Korean talks planned for last week, marking a sudden downturn in bilateral ties, following months of rapprochement, that came as North Korea condemned joint military drills involving troops from the South and the United States.
It is not clear what prompted a further change of heart from the North, but hours earlier, South Korean President Moon Jae-in was stressing the value of dialogue while holding talks with U.S. President Donald Trump.
The American leader has cast doubt on whether he will meet his North Korean counterpart Kim Jong-un as scheduled on June 12, with Washington officials upsetting Pyongyang by insisting on a stricter denuclearization deal than that which Kim apparently had in mind when he held a breakthrough inter-Korean summit with Moon last month.
Seoul's Unification Ministry had virtually given up on South Korea's media covering the North's promised denuclearization event, which is set to take place by Friday depending on the weather. But the ministry made one more attempt to bypass strict border restrictions on behalf of the South's journalists Wednesday morning that would ordinarily prevent South Koreans from legally entering North Korea.
"The government welcomes that our press corps has been allowed to participate in the event marking the dismantlement of the Punggye-ri nuclear test site," ministry spokesman Baik Tae-hyun told reporters
"We expect that this will serve as a starting point for accomplishing complete denuclearization as swiftly as possible through the U.S.-North Korea summit and talks at various channels," he added in comments carried by local news agency Yonhap.