Koreas to hold denuclearization talks

KICK-START::Kim Jong-un was frustrated by the international community’s lack of appreciation for North Korea’s ‘very significant’ steps, a South Korean official said


Fri, Sep 07, 2018 - Page 6

The leaders of the two Koreas are to hold a summit in Pyongyang later this month, Seoul said yesterday, as North Korean leader Kim Jong-un renewed his commitment to the denuclearization of the peninsula.

The announcement of the Sept. 18 to 20 summit — the third between Kim and South Korean President Moon Jae-in this year — comes as US efforts to dismantle Pyongyang’s nuclear arsenal have stalled.

The leaders are to discuss “practical measures to denuclearize” the peninsula, South Korean National Security Director Chung Eui-yong told reporters.

Chung on Wednesday flew to Pyongyang, where he handed over a personal letter from Moon to Kim, as Seoul seeks to kick-start the diplomacy that led to the June summit between US President Donald Trump and Kim.

In his meeting with Chung, Kim renewed his commitment to denuclearization, North Korean state media said yesterday.

The two Koreas “should further their efforts to realize the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula,” Kim was quoted as saying by the Korean Central News Agency. “It is our fixed stand ... to completely remove the danger of armed conflict and horror of war from the Korean Peninsula and turn it into the cradle of peace without nuclear weapons and free from nuclear threat.”

Kim said that his “trust in Trump remains unchanged,” despite the difficulties, and expressed his intention to work closely with the US to achieve denuclearization “in the first official term of President Trump,” Chung said.

However, Kim also expressed a “sense of frustration” with the international community for not appreciating what he called Pyongyang’s “very significant and meaningful” steps, Chung said.

Kim said that the North had dismantled its nuclear test site in Punggye-ri, where nuclear tests “have been made impossible for good,” Chung said.

“Chairman Kim asked us to convey the message to the US that the US [should] help create situations where he would feel his decision to denuclearize was a right move,” he added.

Chung also conveyed a message from Trump to Kim, a presidential spokesman said, without elaborating.

The upcoming summit between Kim and Moon might help break the months-long deadlock after the Singapore summit, said Lim Eul-chul, professor at Kyungnam University’s Graduate School of North Korean Studies.

“There is a still big gap between what the North considers sufficient goodwill gestures, like destroying its missile test stand or a nuclear test site, and what the US wants, including on-site verification by experts,” he said.

Narrowing the gap and rebuilding trust between Kim and Trump is key in the dialogue ahead, he said, adding that Kim would seek to send more reconciliatory messages to Trump through Moon.

North Korea has demanded that Washington agree to formally end the Korean War and accused it of failing to reciprocate “goodwill measures,” but US officials and conservatives in the South are concerned that such a declaration would weaken the US-South Korea alliance.

Kim dismissed such worries, Chung said, and told the South Korean delegation that a formal end of the Korean War would not be linked to the withdrawal of US troops.

Professor Yang Moo-jin of the University of North Korean Studies said that Kim sees the US agreeing to a formal end to the war as a “litmus test” to determine whether Washington is sincere in moving forward.

“But the US ... does not seem to be ready to accept the North’s demand,” he said.