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With world watching, Kim Jong Un promises to dismantle huge missile test site if US cooperates

South Korean President MOON JAE IN and North Korean Leader KIM JONG UN meet for their third summit Pyeongyang, North Korea,on September 18, 2018 in Pyeongyang, North Korea. (Ryu Seung-Il/ZUMA Wire/TNS)
September 19, 2018

The third inter-Korean summit in four months is underway, and North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un and South Korean President Moon Jae-in have signed a summit agreement saying North Korea will renew its process of denuclearization, to include shutting down one of the country’s major nuclear facilities and removing all nuclear weapons from the Korean Peninsula.

The news comes amid stalled talks between North Korea and the United States, and while the next steps need to be finalized with the U.S. – as President Trump pointed out in Wednesday morning tweets – it is a sign of progress and hope that North Korea is taking denuclearization seriously for the first time since Trump and Kim met in Singapore this past June.

“The North has agreed to permanently shut down its Dongchang-ri missile engine testing facility and missile launch pad under the participation of experts from related countries,” and North Korea also agreed to permanently shut down the Yongbyon nuclear facility, “depending on the United States’ corresponding measures,” Moon said during a press conference in Pyongyang, South Korea’s Yonhap News reported Wednesday.

“The South and the North discussed denuclearization steps for the first time,” Moon added.

“The September declaration will open a higher level for the improvement in relations (between the South and the North) … and bring closer the era of peace and prosperity,” Kim said, Yonhap reported.

According to the joint agreement the two leaders signed, “The North expressed its willingness to continue taking additional steps, such as the permanent shutdown of the Yongbyon nuclear facility, should the United States take corresponding measures under the spirit of the June 12 North Korea-U.S. joint statement.”

Moon is expected to visit the United States later this month, and the White House has said that there is a second U.S.-North Korea summit between Trump and Kim in the works.

Following reports Wednesday of North Korea’s renewed pledge to denuclearize, President Trump took to Twitter and said the developments were “very exciting,” but he also expressed caution.

“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. In the meantime there will be no Rocket or Nuclear testing. Hero remains to continue being […] returned home to the United States. Also, North and South Korea will file a joint bid to host the 2032 Olympics. Very exciting,” he wrote.

There has been great tension surround North Korea’s denuclearization, especially in light of stalled progress with the United States and conflicting past reports about North Korea’s nuclear activity.

A United Nations nuclear watchdog group in August said North Korea hasn’t stopped the heart of its nuclear activities. In the International Atomic Energy Agency’s recent report, it was revealed that they have not been granted direct access to North Korean nuclear sites for verifications of denuclearization progress, and the group has also observed nuclear activities using satellite imagery, which it called a “grave concern.”

The report mentioned active nuclear activities at the Yongbyon nuclear power plant, as well as activities in a building housing the centrifuge enrichment facility.

President Trump also canceled one of Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s planned trips to North Korea shortly after that report. In a series of tweets in late August, Trump said he asked Pompeo to cancel his upcoming trip, citing insufficient progress in denuclearization.

Trump later sent a series of tweets giving an update on North Korea, saying that he has a “good, warm” relationship with Kim.

Earlier this month, White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders confirmed that President Trump received a second, “very warm, very positive” letter from North Korean leader Kim Jong Un.

“The primary purpose of the letter was to request and look to schedule another meeting with the President, which we are open to,” she had said.

The White House confirmed that preparations were in the works for a second U.S.-North Korea summit with the two leaders.