Kim agrees on Seoul trip, open to closing main nuclear complex

Reuters
Kim Jong Un agreed to make a visit to Seoul soon and close a missile testing site in front of international inspectors at a summit with South Korean President Moon Jae-in.
Reuters

Kim Jong Un, leader of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, agreed to make a historic visit to Seoul soon and close a missile testing site in front of international inspectors at a summit with South Korean President Moon Jae-in in Pyongyang yesterday.

Speaking at a joint news conference, Kim and Moon said they agreed to turn the Korean Peninsula into a “land of peace without nuclear weapons and nuclear threats.”

They said the DPRK was also willing to close its main nuclear complex if the United States took unspecified “reciprocal action.”

The pledges Kim and Moon made at their third summit this year could inject fresh momentum into the stalled nuclear negotiations between Washington and Pyongyang and lay the groundwork for another meeting Kim recently proposed to US President Donald Trump.

“I don’t think President Moon got everything he was seeking from these interactions, but Kim Jong Un gave Moon some tangible things for which he can take credit,” said Michael Madden, an analyst at the Stimson Center’s 38 North think tank in Washington.

“These are good-faith gestures which will likely facilitate further and more substantive negotiations,” Madden said, adding that a second summit between Kim and Trump was “highly probable.”

Trump called the latest pledges “very exciting.”

“Kim Jong Un has agreed to allow nuclear inspections, subject to final negotiations, and to permanently dismantle a test site and launch pad in the presence of international experts. In the meantime there will be no rocket or nuclear testing,” Trump wrote on Twitter.

Kim said he would visit Seoul in the near future, in what would be the first-ever visit to South Korea’s capital by a DPRK leader. Moon said the visit was expected to take place by the end of the year.

The leaders of the two Koreas also announced a series of steps to deepen bilateral exchanges in the economy, culture and sport.

Kim’s latest promises come days before Moon meets Trump in New York on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly next week. Seoul officials hope Moon will be able to convince Trump to restart nuclear talks with Pyongyang, after he canceled a trip by his secretary of state to Pyongyang last month, citing lack of progress.

Though the DPRK has stopped nuclear and missile tests, it did not allow international inspections of the dismantling of its only known nuclear test site in May.

As a next step, the DPRK will allow experts from “concerned countries” to watch the closure of its missile engine testing site and launch pad in the northwest town of Dongchang-ri, according to a joint statement signed by Moon and Kim. The facilities were a key test center for its intercontinental ballistic missiles.

The DPRK also “expressed its readiness” to take additional measures, such as a permanent dismantlement of its main nuclear facilities in Yongbyon should there be unspecified corresponding US action.

Those US steps could include an end-of-war declaration, said South Korea’s national security adviser, Chung Eui-yong.

The neighbors remain at war technically because the 1950-53 Korean War ended in armistice and not a peace treaty.

The DPRK has consistently refused to give up its nuclear arsenal unilaterally, and stressed that the US should first agree to a formal declaration ending the war.

The two Koreas agreed to begin construction to reconnect railways and roads linking the countries within this year. They will also work to restart a joint factory park in the DPRK border city of Kaesong and tours to the DPRK’s Mount Kumgang resort, when conditions are met.

The two Koreas also agreed to pursue a bid to co-host the 2032 Summer Olympic Games, and actively work together in other international competitions, including the 2020 Olympic Games in Tokyo.

The DPRK’s participation in hosting the Games, which include thousands of athletes from around the world and an even larger number of spectators, would be a watershed event requiring a degree of openness and financial muscle now lacking in the country.

The first hint of a possible joint bid came last week when South Korea’s Yonhap news agency quoted the country’s sports minister Do Jong-hwan as saying Seoul planned to propose the idea during this week’s Pyongyang meeting.

For the 2030 FIFA World Cup, Do said South Korea planned to propose a co-hosted tournament involving China, Japan and the two Koreas.

“In this way, we could maintain the current momentum for peace and expand peace on the Korean Peninsula to the whole region,” Do said.

The DPRK’s decision to participate in the Pyeongchang Winter Olympics in February triggered a big diplomatic turnaround on the peninsula. 

The Games saw athletes from the two Koreas march together at the opening ceremony behind a unification flag showing an undivided peninsula.

Kim sent his sister Kim Yo Jong to Pyeongchang as his personal envoy, and the two leaders have since met three times as part of an ongoing diplomatic rapprochement.

Today, the last day of his three-day visit, Moon plans to visit Mount Baektu with Kim before returning home. The DPRK says Kim’s grandfather and father were born at Mount Baektu.

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