North Korea agrees to dismantle main nuclear site if US reciprocates

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The leader of North Korea has agreed to dismantle his main nuclear complex but only if the United States does the same.

Kim Jong Un agreed on the second day of meetings with his South Korean counterpart President Moon Jae-in on an ambitious programme meant to tackle soaring tensions between the two countries last year.

Mr Kim promised to accept international inspectors to monitor the closing of a key missile test site and launch pad and to visit Seoul soon, and both leaders vowed to work together to try to host the Summer Olympics in 2032.

Such steps include a commitment by Mr Kim to provide a list of North Korea’s nuclear facilities, a timeline for closing them down, or an agreement to allow international inspectors to assess progress or discover violations.

US President Donald Trump, described the Korean leaders’ agreements as “Very exciting!” in a tweet.

Mr Moon and Mr Kim stood side by side as they announced the joint statement to a group of North and South Korean reporters after a closed-door meeting.

“We have agreed to make the Korean Peninsula a land of peace that is free from nuclear weapons and nuclear threat,” Mr Kim said at the guesthouse where Mr Moon is staying.

“The road to our future will not always be smooth and we may face challenges and trials we can’t anticipate. But we aren’t afraid of headwinds because our strength will grow as we overcome each trial based on the strength of our nation.”

Mr Kim and Mr Moon earlier smiled and chatted as they walked down a hallway and into a meeting room to finalise the joint statement, which also said that the leaders would push for a Korean Peninsula without nuclear weapons and to “eliminate all the danger of war”.

Mr Moon and Mr Kim planned to visit a volcano sacred to the North on Thursday, the last day of Mr Moon’s visit.

This week’s summit comes as Mr Moon is under increasing pressure from Washington to find a path forward in efforts to get Mr Kim to completely — and unilaterally — abandon his nuclear arsenal.

Mr Trump has maintained that he and Mr Kim have a solid relationship, and both leaders have expressed interest in a follow-up summit to their meeting in June in Singapore.

Koreas Summit
Moon Jae-in and Kim Jong Un pose after signing documents in Pyongyang (Korea Broadcasting System via AP)

In the meantime, however, Mr Moon and Mr Kim made concrete moves of their own to reduce tensions on their border.

According to a statement signed by the countries’ defence chiefs, the two Koreas agreed to establish buffer zones along their land and sea borders to reduce military tensions and prevent accidental clashes.

They also agreed to withdraw 11 guard posts from the Demilitarised Zone by December and to establish a no-fly zone above the military demarcation line that bisects the two Koreas that will apply to planes, helicopters and drones.

South Korea Koreas Summit
Moon Jae-in shakes hands with Kim Jong Un after a joint press conference in Pyongyang, (Lee Jin-man/AP)

Other agreements included allowing more contact between families divided by the Korean War. Mr Moon also appeared to be making good on his proposals to help build up the North’s infrastructure and open cross-border rail links.

Unlike Mr Trump’s initial tweets praising the summit, the news brought a quick and negative response from Republican senator Lindsey Graham, who tweeted that he was concerned the visit would undermine efforts by US secretary of state Mike Pompeo and UN ambassador Nikki Haley to impose “maximum pressure” on the North.

“While North Korea has stopped testing missiles and nuclear devices, they have NOT moved towards denuclearisation,” he tweeted.

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