Moon to work with Kim to free Korea of nuclear weapons

South Korean President Moon Jae-in and his wife Kim Jung-sook having lunch with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un and his wife Ri Sol Ju at Pyongyang's famous cold noodle restaurant Okryukwan yesterday. The two leaders are set to meet again when Mr Kim
South Korean President Moon Jae-in and his wife Kim Jung-sook having lunch with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un and his wife Ri Sol Ju at Pyongyang's famous cold noodle restaurant Okryukwan yesterday. The two leaders are set to meet again when Mr Kim visits Seoul by the end of this year.PHOTO: REUTERS

North offers to dismantle main nuclear test site if the US takes corresponding measures

Standing before a wildly cheering crowd of 150,000 in a Pyongyang stadium, South Korean President Moon Jae-in yesterday pledged to work with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un to free the Korean peninsula of nuclear weapons and the risk of another war.

Despite the euphoria, however, analysts said the concrete steps being offered by North Korea in its journey towards denuclearisation fall short of expectations.

Speaking at a joint press conference with Mr Kim to mark their third summit, Mr Moon said that the North has offered to permanently dismantle its main Yongbyon nuclear test site.

There was one condition - the United States must also take "corresponding measures", though these were not specified.

Mr Moon also said North Korea has agreed to permanently shut down an engine test site and missile launch pad in Dongchang-ri and allow experts to inspect the process, which he called an "extremely meaningful accomplishment".

US President Donald Trump praised the summit, saying that there has been tremendous progress with North Korea.

He told White House reporters last night that the agreements reached between the two Korean leaders were "very good news". "He is calm and I am calm, so we will see what happens," said Mr Trump, who has accepted an invitation from Mr Kim for a second summit.

China has also welcomed the summit outcome, with Foreign Ministry spokesman Geng Shuang noting that the meeting has produced positive effects in easing military tension and promoting peace talks.

He said China would support further talks to reduce tension.

However, analysts said that while the summit - the first between the two leaders to be held in Pyongyang - made some progress on the nuclear front, it was not meaningful progress.

 
 
 

Professor Kim Jae-chun of Sogang University said that he had expected North Korea to declare at least a partial list of its nuclear weapons. He added that the North can do without a nuclear engine test site and launch pad, as it has already successfully tested Hwasong-12 - an intercontinental ballistic missile that is capable of striking the US mainland. The regime also has movable launch pads.

The real threat is North Korea's enriched uranium programme, said Asian politics expert Sean King of US-based consulting firm Park Strategies. "But this is nonetheless likely to be good enough for Trump to declare some kind of victory and to crow," he said.

Experts said stalled nuclear talks could resume if the US decides to send officials to Pyongyang to find out the "corresponding measures" the regime wants for shutting down Yongbyon.

Mr Moon's special adviser Moon Chung-in hinted that the key could lie in a declaration to end the 1950-53 Korean War. The North has pushed for this for months.

Noting Mr Trump's positive tweets, Dr Bong Young-shik of Yonsei University's Institute for North Korean Studies said there could also be "secret agreements" by North Korea waiting to be unveiled, when Mr Moon meets Mr Trump next week at the United Nations General Assembly. "If not, the US will be very disappointed," added Dr Bong.

Mr Moon returns today after visiting Mount Baekdu with Mr Kim. They are set to meet again when Mr Kim visits Seoul by the end of this year, which will make him the first North Korean leader to do so.

• Additional reporting by Dami Shin

 
A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 20, 2018, with the headline 'Moon to work with Kim to free Korea of N-weapons'. Print Edition | Subscribe