North Korea 'to close nuclear site' in May and open facility to US and Seoul

North Korea 'to close nuclear site' in May and open facility to US and Seoul

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un has vowed to shut down the country's nuclear test site in May and open the process to experts and journalists from South Korea and the United States, Seoul's presidential office has said.

The event may serve as a dramatic set-up to Mr Kim's crucial nuclear negotiations with President Donald Trump that may take place in the next few weeks amid widespread scepticism on whether the North will ever fully surrender its nuclear weapons.

Mr Kim made the comments during his summit with South Korean President Moon Jae-in on Friday at a border truce village, where he also expressed optimism about his meeting with Mr Trump, saying the US president will learn he's "not a person" to fire missiles toward the United States, Mr Moon's spokesman Yoon Young-chan said.

North Korea 'to close nuclear site' in May and open facility to US and Seoul

Mr Moon and Mr Kim during the summit promised to work towards the "complete denuclearisation" of the Korean Peninsula, but made no references to verification or timetables.

Seoul had also shuttled between Pyongyang and Washington to set up a potential meeting between Mr Kim and President Trump, which is expected next month or early June.

"Once we start talking, the United States will know that I am not a person to launch nuclear weapons at South Korea, the Pacific or the United States," Mr Yoon quoted Mr Kim as saying.

"If we maintain frequent meetings and build trust with the United States and receive promises for an end to the war and a non-aggression treaty, then why would be need to live in difficulty by keeping our nuclear weapons?" Mr Yoon quoted Mr Kim as saying.

North Korea this month announced it has suspended all tests of nuclear devices and intercontinental ballistic missiles and plans to close its nuclear testing ground.

Mr Kim reacted to scepticism that the North would only be closing down the northernmost test tunnel at the site in Punggye-ri, which some analysts say became too unstable to conduct further underground detonations following the country's sixth and most powerful nuclear test in September.

In his conversation with Mr Moon, Mr Kim denied that he would be merely clearing out damaged goods, saying that the site also has two new tunnels that are larger than previous testing facilities, Mr Yoon said.

The Friday summit between Mr Moon and Mr Kim kicked off a global diplomatic drive to deal with the North's nuclear and missile threats, which after a flurry of weapons tests last year involve purported thermonuclear weapons, developmental ICBMs and quick-fire solid-fuel missiles.

While the meeting ended with no new concrete measures on the nuclear stand-off, the more substantial discussions on the North's denuclearisation - including what, when and how it would occur - were always going to be reserved for a Kim-Trump summit.

The new round of nuclear negotiations with North Korea comes after a decades-long cycle of crises, stalemates and broken promises that allowed the country the room to build a legitimate arsenal.

More on this topic

Kim Jong Un vows to build ‘invincible army’ and oversees another military drillKim Jong Un vows to build ‘invincible army’ and oversees another military drill

North Korea calls Joe Biden a ‘rabid dog’ for insulting its dignityNorth Korea calls Joe Biden a ‘rabid dog’ for insulting its dignity

Kim Jong Un orders South Korean hotels destroyed at resortKim Jong Un orders South Korean hotels destroyed at resort

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un vows to fight US sanctionsNorth Korean leader Kim Jong Un vows to fight US sanctions

More in this Section

Common arthritis drugs could block spread of breast cancer, study suggestsCommon arthritis drugs could block spread of breast cancer, study suggests

Sepsis alert system hailed for reducing deaths and hospital staysSepsis alert system hailed for reducing deaths and hospital stays

UK ticket-holder wins €123m EuroMillions jackpotUK ticket-holder wins €123m EuroMillions jackpot

Lori Loughlin and husband fighting new charges in admissions caseLori Loughlin and husband fighting new charges in admissions case


Lifestyle

Tis the season for sequins and excess, but minimalists can stick to their style guns in the season’s next level neutrals. From low-key glitz that’s perfect for party wear to the wardrobe heroes with trans-seasonal appeal, slide into neutral for maximum style with minimal effort. Carolyn Moore reports.Low-key glitz for minimalists with this season's neutrals

How to plump, hydrate and get rid of spots fast before your Christmas party.The Skin Nerd: Getting your quick fix for the festive party season

Irish photographer Seamus Murphy brought music star PJ Harvey to Afghanistan to film part of their documentary, writes Esther McCarthy.Headlong into the war zone in new documentary

Kya deLongchamps shows us how to champion our environmentWinter greens: How to champion our environment this season

More From The Irish Examiner