North Korea willing to 'permanently dismantle' Yongbyon nuclear site

Leroy Wright
September 21, 2018

The statement came after the North's leader Kim Jong Un agreed to make a historic visit to Seoul soon and close a missile testing site in front of worldwide inspectors in a meeting with the South's President Moon Jae-in.

The two leaders capped their summit on Thursday with a visit to Mount Paektu, the mythological birthplace of the Korean people and one of the most powerful symbols in North Korean propaganda.

After the two leaders pledged new steps aimed at salvaging nuclear talks, South Korea made a surprise announcement that Moon and Kim will use the final day of their three-day summit to go up the symbolic mountain together.

"On the basis of these important commitments, the United States is prepared to engage immediately in negotiations to transform US-DPRK relations", he said in a statement.

After the summit, Moon said he will pass along Kim's messages for the US and the Trump administration.

Kim also wants a second summit with U.S. President Donald Trump as soon as possible.

Moon said Kim had also told him the closure of a nuclear weapons test site at Punggye-ri could be subject to worldwide verification.

The Associated Press reported that Moon said he would convey Kim's desire to formally end the Korean War by the end of the year.

It is an important caveat - Moon told reporters on his return to Seoul that the USA would need to "end hostile relations with North Korea and provide security guarantees for the North Korean regime".

South Korean President Moon Jae-in praised the North Korean offer.

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Previously, Pyongyang has asked for "phased and synchronised measures" for denuclearisation, meaning the worldwide community would slowly relax or drop sanctions with each step in the denuclearisation process, rather than waiting until its completion.

Now, the USA appears ready to seize on Kim's new commitments, even if it's unclear how serious he is about them, and talks are back on.

Jeong Seong-jang, a North Korea expert at the Sejong Institute, also noted that the U.S. and North Korea were still largely divided over denuclearisation.

Kim promised to accept worldwide inspectors to monitor the closing of a key missile test site and launch pad and to visit Seoul soon, and both leaders vowed to work together to try to host the Summer Olympics in 2032.

"The biggest outstanding question still remains - what price the North Koreans want to extract from the United States", Fuchs said.

In addition to inviting North Korean Foreign Minister Ri Yong Ho to meet when both are in NY next week for the annual UN General Assembly gathering of world leaders, Pompeo said Washington invited Pyongyang's representatives to meet the U.S. special representative for North Korea, Stephen Biegun, in Vienna at the "earliest opportunity".

"Given how Kim recently suggested a specific timetable for denuclearization, a more concrete agreement than one in Singapore is expected to come out in the next summit". The alternative-the horrors of nuclear, chemical, and biological warfare that an invasion of North Korea would unquestionably entail-is unthinkable. Moon, who was the handmaiden of the Kim-Trump dialogue back in the spring, was under considerable pressure this week to extract concessions from Kim that could sustain the rapprochement between Washington and Pyongyang. But inter-Korean relations continue to grow closer, and the trip to Paektu highlighted the close relationship between the two leaders. As Yonhap News notes, Moon expects to see Trump in NY next week, when he attends the U.N. General Assembly. South Korea and the United States remain technically at war with North Korea because the 1950-53 Korean War ended in an armistice and not a peace treaty.

Agreeing to a declaration on ending the Korean War before North Korea has reduced its offensive threat - including the thousands of artillery guns it has trained on USA ally South Korea - is opposed by many who fear that the North is maneuvering to win a withdrawal of the almost 30,000 US forces in the South.

"Invoking the end of Trump's term in January 2021 is another way of saying to the North that American patience is not unlimited and that Kim Jong Un won't be able to sidestep denuclearisation indefinitely", Russel added.

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