Kim Jong-un to Visit South Korea ‘In the Near Future’

The North Korean leader, Kim Jong-un, and President Moon Jae-in of South Korea at the Paekhwawon State Guesthouse in Pyongyang, North Korea, on Wednesday.
Pool photo

Kim Jong-un, the North Korean leader, will visit South Korea “in the near future,” he said on Wednesday after meeting with the South’s president, Moon Jae-in. He also agreed to dismantle missile facilities in the presence of outside inspectors, and he promised additional moves toward denuclearization if the United States takes steps of its own.

At a joint news conference with Mr. Kim in Pyongyang, the North Korean capital, Mr. Moon said he expected Mr. Kim to visit Seoul, the South’s capital, before the end of the year. Such a trip would be the first by any North Korean leader, another dramatic moment in a flurry of diplomacy in recent months.

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Mr. Kim said he and Mr. Moon had “made a firm commitment to exert active efforts to make the Korean Peninsula free of nuclear weapons and nuclear threat and turn it into a land of peace.”

In a joint statement the two men signed, Mr. Kim agreed to “permanently dismantle” a missile-engine test facility and a missile launchpad in Dongchang-ri, in northwestern North Korea, and to allow outside inspectors to watch that process. The Dongchang-ri complex has been a key test center for the North’s intercontinental ballistic missile program.

North Korea also promised additional steps, including the permanent dismantlement of facilities at its main nuclear complex in Yongbyon, north of Pyongyang, if the United States takes “corresponding measures.” The North did not specify what it wanted from the Americans, but in recent weeks it has been demanding almost daily that Washington join the two Koreas in jointly declaring an end to the Korean War. Mr. Moon also advocates an end-of-war declaration.

President Trump called the North Korean commitments “very exciting” on Twitter. He also noted that the two Koreas had agreed to submit a joint bid to host the 2032 Olympics.

The Korean leaders’ summit meeting in Pyongyang was their third, and it was Mr. Moon’s first visit to Pyongyang as South Korea’s leader. The two had met on the inter-Korean border in April and May.

The big question hovering over their talks this week has been whether Mr. Kim would take steps to convince Washington that he is willing to denuclearize. American officials want to see concrete moves from the North, including freezing its nuclear activities and submitting a full list of its nuclear weapons, facilities and fissile materials. The North said nothing on Wednesday about submitting such a list.

Permanently dismantling the Yongbyon complex would be a major concession. Yongbyon is the birthplace of the North’s nuclear arms program, and successive administrations in Washington have tried but failed to get it shut it down completely, though its activities were frozen for several years under a deal reached during the Clinton administration.

The complex includes a centrifuge plant that produces highly enriched uranium for fueling nuclear bombs. It also contains the North’s only known source of plutonium, another bomb fuel: a Soviet-era nuclear reactor and a laboratory that extracts plutonium from the reactor’s spent fuel.

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SOURCE: New York Times, Choe Sang-Hun

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