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North Korea’s Kim agrees to ‘dismantle’ key missile test sites

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North Korea has agreed to “permanently” shut one of its main missile facilities in the presence of foreign experts, South Korea’s President Moon Jae-in announced at a joint press conference with Kim Jong-un on Wednesday.

The leaders of the two Koreas, who held summit talks in Pyongyang, said they agreed to turn the Korean Peninsula into a “land of peace without nuclear weapons and nuclear threats”.

“South and North Korea agreed on a specific step toward denuclearisation. It is a very meaningful achievement.

“North Korea has agreed to permanently dismantle the Dongchang-ri missile engine test site and launch pads in the presence of international experts,” Moon said after a two-day summit with his North Korean counterpart Kim Jong-un in Pyongyang.

Kim said he will visit Seoul in the near future, in what would be the first-ever visit to the South’s capital by a North Korean leader.

Pyongyang is also willing to close its main nuclear complex in Nyongbyon if the United States takes reciprocal action, Moon said.

“North Korea has agreed to take additional measures such as the permanent dismantling of Nyongbyon nuclear facility if there are corresponding measures from the US,” Moon added.

The two leaders also agreed to establish “buffer zones” along their land and sea borders to prevent the danger of accidental clashes.

“We have adopted a military agreement to terminate the historic tragic confrontations and hostility that have lasted over the past decades,” Kim said, adding: “We agree to make active efforts to make the Korean Peninsula a land of peace.”

The two states also agreed to pursue a bid to co-host the 2032 Summer Olympic Games, and actively work together in other international competitions including the 2020 Olympic Games in Tokyo.

Se-Woong Koo, founder of Korean news website, Korea Expose, told Al Jazeera the comments made by the leaders were ‘very significant’.

“Everybody has been asking North Korea to provide details about how it’s going to shut down its weapons programme and this agreement showed the very details people asked for,” he said, cautioning that North Korea’s comments still fell short of expectation.

“That includes the idea that North Korea will release a list of its nuclear facilities, so it remains to be seen whether this agreement will actually be something that is palatable to Washington.”
Nuclear arsenal

Though North Korea has unilaterally stopped nuclear and missile tests, it did not allow international inspections for a dismantlement of its only known nuclear test site in May, drawing criticism that its action was unverifiable and could be easily reversed.

Pyongyang has consistently refused to give up its nuclear arsenal unilaterally and stressed that a formal declaration to end the 1950-53 Korean War should come first.

Satellite photographs and other evidence in recent months have suggested North Korea is continuing to work on its nuclear programme clandestinely.

This week’s summit is intended to put in place concrete steps to implement the Panmunjom Declaration, named after the border village where the two leaders first met in April, Seoul officials said.

In a series of tweets responding to the summit between the Koreas on Wednesday, Trump called the agreement between the two “exciting”.

“Kim Jong Un has agreed to allow Nuclear inspections, subject to final negotiations, and to permanently dismantle a test site and launch pad in the presence of international experts,” he wrote.

After the high symbolism of the two leaders’ first meeting in April in the Demilitarized Zone that divides the Korean Peninsula, and Kim’s historic summit with US President Donald Trump in Singapore in June, progress has largely stalled.

In Singapore, Kim declared his backing for the denuclearisation of the peninsula, but no details were agreed and Washington and Pyongyang have since sparred over what that means and how it will be achieved.

Washington is pressing for the North’s “final, fully verified denuclearisation”, while Pyongyang wants a formal declaration that the 1950-53 Korean War is over and has condemned “gangster-like” demands for it to give up its weapons unilaterally.

[Al Jazeera and news agencies]
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