North Korea will shut down key missile test facilities in the presence of “international experts” and is willing to close its only known nuclear complex if the United States makes reciprocal measures, South Korean president Moon Jae-in has announced in a joint press conference with Kim Jong-un.
The two leaders also agreed during a three-day summit in Pyongyang to connect two rail lines, on the east and west side of the peninsula, across one of the most militarised borders in the world. Kim also said he would visit Seoul in the “near future”, a move that would make him the first North Korean leader to visit the South’s capital.
North and South Korea agreed that the Korean Peninsula should turn into a “land of peace without nuclear weapons and nuclear threats”, Moon said. Any transport links would require the approval of the US-led United Nations Command, which oversees the border region.
“There is not only going to be a smooth road ahead, there will be challenges and trials, but the more we overcome them the stronger we will become,” Kim said. “We are not afraid of future challenges.”
The agreement signed in Pyongyang “will open a higher level for the improvement in relations” between the two Koreas, Kim added, describing it as a “leap forward” toward peace.
Donald Trump described the meeting as “Very exciting!” in a tweet, and claimed Kim had “agreed to allow nuclear inspections, subject to final negotiations”.
Under the agreement signed by the men, North Korea will shut down the Dongchang-ri missile engine testing facility and missile launch pad, according to Moon. It was not immediately clear what North Korea meant by “reciprocal measures” the US could take so that it would shut its nuclear complex, but it is unlikely Washington would agree to give up any part of its own nuclear arsenal.
Kim did not mention denuclearisation at any point in his own remarks. The lack of steps specifically on the nuclear issue could worry officials in Washington, and talks between the US and North Korea have stalled in recent weeks.
Mintaro Oba, a former US diplomat who focused on North Korea policy, said: “I think we can expect a two-tiered response where President Trump remains enthusiastic about engaging with Kim Jong-un, but we also see continued scepticism from US officials about both the purported progress on denuclearisation.
“But if one thing is clear, it’s that North Korea continues to outmaneuver the United States through its willingness to take initiatives that shape the global public narrative and force Washington to choose between engaging on Pyongyang’s terms or looking like it is acting in bad faith.”
The two Koreas also agreed to establish a joint military committee to resolve any potential conflicts, and each side will withdrawal 11 guard post from the demilitarised zone by the end of the year. The two militaries agreed to a range of measured to prevent accidental clashes, including a no-fly zone near the border and suspending test firing in the area.
South Korea will allow its citizens to visit the Mount Kumgang tourist region in the North for the first time since 2008, when a North Korean soldier shot and killed a tourist from the South. The two sides will also establish a permanent venue for families divided by the 1950-53 Korean war to meet more frequently. In the past, most families could see relatives for only a few hours, and usually only once.
The two sides also plan to bid to jointly host the 2032 Summer Olympics.
This story originally appeared in The Guardian. Image courtesy of AP.