Cheong Wa Dae said Sunday that North Korean leader Kim Jong-un promised to close down the country’s main nuclear test site at Punggye-ri in May before the eyes of security experts and journalists from South Korea and the United States.
During his summit with President Moon Jae-in, Friday, Kim even disclosed that two of the four underground tunnels at the test site were still “usable” but that they would be sealed off as well. Kim abruptly made the offer and President Moon accepted it, Moon’s top press secretary Yoon Young-chan said.
“The two leaders reached an agreement after Mr. Kim made the proposal during the summit,” Yoon said during a follow-up briefing.
“Some say we are terminating facilities that are not functioning, but you will see that we have two more tunnels that are bigger than the existing ones and they are in good condition,” Kim said according to Yoon.
A Cheong WaDae official said Kim’s offer was impromptu, and not coordinated in advance when the Seoul and Pyongyang officials discussed issues to be included on the summit agenda.
His promise is seen as bid to clear doubts on North Korea’s plan to scrap its nuclear program ahead of Kim’s planned summit with President Donald Trump in May or June.
Skeptics claim Kim would not abandon his nuclear ambitions and may try to deceive the U.S. and the rest of the world as his country has done in the past.
“Although I am inherently resistant toward America, people will see that I am not the kind of person who fires nuclear weapons at South Korea, the Pacific or America,” Kim said. “Why would we keep nuclear weapons and live in difficult conditions if we often meet with Americans to build trust and they promise us to end the war and not to invade us?”
Kim said he will not repeat the “painful history of the Korean War,” adding, “Concrete measures are necessary to stop any accidental military confrontation from happening.”
North Korea carried out six nuclear tests in Tunnels 1 and 2 at the Punggye-ri test site from 2006 to 2017. They are believed to have either collapsed or being on the verge of collapsing.
Moon and Kim also agreed to unify the time zones used in South and North Korea.
North Korea turned back the clock 30 minutes and created its own time zone in August 2015 to mark the Korean Peninsula’s liberation from Japanese rule
“I feel sad to see that there are two clocks hung on the wall of the Peace House, one for Seoul time and the other for Pyongyang time,” Kim said. “Since it is us who changed the time standard, we will return to the original one. You can make it public.”
Market watchers and security experts said unifying the time zone is a part of efforts to better prepare for economic cooperation with the South and also to restore ties with Japan.
The inter-Korean summit was seen as critical in setting the tone for Kim’s upcoming talks with Trump.
Trump has repeatedly hinted at the U.S. walking away from the table if North Korea is believed to be insincere about denuclearization.
During his telephone conversation with Moon, Saturday, Trump hailed the historic summit and Moon’s and Kim’s reaffirmation of a shared goal of complete denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula.
Moon and Trump have agreed to closely coordinate to ensure the upcoming North Korea-U.S. summit adds to an agreement on concrete measures to denuclearize the North.
“The two leaders agreed that South Korea and the United States should continue to closely coordinate so that the planned U.S.-North Korea summit could generate an agreement on concrete measures to realize complete denuclearization,” Cheong WaDae said.
Trump also expressed his consent to inter-Korean agreements to push for a formal end to the 1950-53 Korean War by the end of this year.
In a separate announcement, the White House said Moon and Trump stressed the need for complete, verifiable and irreversible denuclearization of North Korea.
It said the two leaders “agreed that the unprecedented pressure applied by the United States, the Republic of Korea and the international community through the global Maximum Pressure Campaign has led to this significant moment.”
On Sunday, Moon had a telephone conversation with Japanese Prime Minister and Russian President Vladimir Putin.
Cheong WaDae said Moon offered to help in resuming dialogue between North Korea and Japan.
Moon told Abe that he had relayed Japan’s hopes to normalize ties with Pyongyang during the summit and said Kim was willing to meet Abe.
SOURCE – The Korea Times