Upon his return to Seoul after a three-day visit to Pyongyang for an inter-Korean summit, South Korean President Moon Jae-in offered details on North Korean leader Kim Jong-un’s commitments.
One of the major outcomes of this week’s summit was that Kim agreed to dismantle his country’s long-range missile testing site in the presence of international inspectors, and to close its main Yongbyon nuclear complex if the US takes corresponding measures.
Here are some of the key points of what North Korean leader Kim has in mind, as explained by Moon at a post-summit press conference on Thursday.
1. Kim’s willingness to denuclearize
North Korean leader Kim wants US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo to visit Pyongyang soon. He also hopes to hold a summit with US President Donald Trump at an early date to accelerate the denuclearization process.
“Chairman Kim Jong-un has again and again affirmed his commitment to denuclearization,” Moon said. “He expressed his wish to finish complete denuclearization as soon as possible and focus on economic development.”
“As you know, North Korea completely dismantled its Punggye-ri nuclear test site. Chairman Kim said North Korea can no longer stage nuclear tests because it has completely dismantled its only nuclear test site and that the country can have that verified at any time,” Moon said.
Kim’s agreement to allow international experts to observe the “permanent dismantling” of a missile engine test site and launch pad amounts to the same thing as “verifiable and irreversible” dismantling of the facilities, he said.
A different understanding of what denuclearization entails and how it should be done have stalled talks between the US and North Korea to follow through on their Singapore summit in June, during which Kim pledged to work toward complete denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula.
2. Undisclosed messages
Moon said that more is going on behind the scenes, but details could not be disclosed.
“We (Moon and Kim) exchanged opinions verbally,” he said. “Among what we discussed, there are things we did not include in the joint declaration. I plan to convey such messages in detail to the US side during my visit to the US.”
Moon is set to meet with Trump in New York on Monday on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly session, which he hopes will pave the way for the second summit between North Korea and the US.
“There are things that the US wants us to convey to North Korea, and on the other side, there are also things that North Korea wants us to convey to the US.” Moon said. “I will faithfully serve that role when I meet President Trump to facilitate dialogue between North Korea and the US.”
Pompeo said on Fox News after the inter-Korean summit that the US and North Korea are making progress.
“I talk to my counterparts there with some frequency,” Pompeo said on Fox News late Wednesday. “It doesn’t get reported. I’m glad about that; I’m glad we’re able to keep that quiet. And so we’re making the progress that we need.”
3. How North Korea perceives end-of-war declaration
Moon reaffirmed his push to bring a formal end to the 1950-53 Korean War within the year, saying it is a “political declaration” and Kim shares such an understanding.
“The concept that we are using when we say ‘end-of-war declaration’ is … that we will first make a political declaration of an end to the war and use that as a starting point for efforts to sign a peace treaty, and normalize North Korea-US relations when North Korea achieves complete denuclearization,” Moon said.
The Koreas are technically still at war because the Korean War ended in 1953 with a cease-fire, not a peace treaty.
“As I talked with Chairman Kim during my visit to North Korea, he was thinking about the end-of-war declaration in the same way,” he said. “It is a political declaration of an end to the war and our hostile relations.”
Moon also addressed concerns that the end-of-war declaration might give Kim rationale to request for the dissolution of the United Nations Command and removal of US troops stationed in South Korea to deter the North.
“With the end-of-war declaration, peace negotiations to sign a peace treaty will begin. A peace treaty will be achieved at the final stage of complete denuclearization,” he said.
“Until then, the existing armistice will be in place, so the status of the United Nations Command or need for the stationing of the US troops in South Korea are not at all affected. Those matters can be discussed after the peace treaty is signed and peace is established.”
“Especially, the US troops in South Korea are being stationed here on the basis of the h Korea-US alliance, so it has nothing to do with the end-of-war declaration or peace treaty and (is) entirely up to the decision by South Korea and the US.
“Kim agreed to that,” he said.
Moon said he would bring up the issue when he meets Trump in New York next week.
By Ock Hyun-ju (firstname.lastname@example.org