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Kim Jong-un understands denuclearization requires inspection: Seoul official

North Korean leader Kim Jong-un seems to understand that the “inspection and verification” process is mandatory in the path leading to the North’s denuclearization, a ranking government official said Wednesday.

“It is not sensible to seek a nuclear-free Korean Peninsula without going through the process of inspection and verification -- it seems the North’s leader has sufficient understanding of the matter,” a senior official from Seoul’s Ministry of Unification told reporters. 

In this file photo,the cooling tower of the Yongbyon nuclear complex is demolished in Yongbyon, North Korea in 2008. (Yonhap)
In this file photo,the cooling tower of the Yongbyon nuclear complex is demolished in Yongbyon, North Korea in 2008. (Yonhap)

On Friday, President Moon Jae-in and Kim signed a declaration committing to work toward the “complete denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula,” at the first inter-Korean summit held in more than a decade.

But the international community continues to question Kim’s motives, as details on how the North will dismantle its nuclear program were not revealed in the declaration.

In a move largely viewed as an effort to diffuse such skepticism, the North offered to shutter its main nuclear test site of Punggye-ri in May and make public its dismantlement by inviting security experts and journalists, according to Moon’s chief press secretary Yoon Young-chan on Sunday.

“The North has announced that it will close down the nuclear test site with international experts and reporters attending. I think this shows that Pyongyang has a strong will for (allowing) an inspection as well,” the senior official added.

But when asked whether the North would allow “anytime, anywhere” inspections of the site from now on, the official said it may be too early to discuss such matters, while stressing it is crucial to not repeat the mistakes of the past involving agreements that failed to be fully implemented.

Pyongyang’s recent invitation to its atomic test site is reminiscent of North Korea’s publicity stunt in 2008 when it invited international journalists to film the destruction of the cooling tower at the Yongbyon nuclear reactor. The move was offered as proof of its commitment to the talks on ending its nuclear program, but a year later, it conducted a second nuclear test.

North Korea has reneged on previous nuclear deals with the US and others, including the Sept. 19, 2005 accord, under which the North agreed to dismantle its nukes in exchange for a security guarantee and energy.

South Korea’s top point man on unification said there is a higher possibility the latest inter-Korean summit’s declaration will be “properly implemented,” compared to those made at previous summits.

“There is a difference with the past regarding the leadership circle of the inter-Korean summit and the upcoming US-North Korea summit,” Unification Minister Cho Myoung-gyon told reporters Wednesday.

By Jung Min-kyung (mkjung@heraldcorp.com)

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