North Korea's Kim agrees to 'dismantle' key missile test sites

At landmark summit, Kim Jong-un offers an array of moves towards ending nuclear programme - if the US reciprocates.

    North Korea is prepared to "permanently" close down one of its main ballistic missile facilities in the presence of foreign experts, an offer it said would need to be met with American reciprocity.

    Speaking in front of about 150,000 North Koreans in the May Day Stadium in the capital Pyongyang on Wednesday, the leaders of the two Koreas said their meetings over two days had ushered in a new era of peace.

    Earlier they agreed to turn the Korean Peninsula into a "land of peace without nuclear weapons and nuclear threats", said South Korea's President Moon Jae-in.

    "South and North Korea agreed on a specific step toward denuclearisation. It is a very meaningful achievement," Moon said.

    The North's leader Kim Jong-un was willing to close the main nuclear complex if the United States took unspecified "reciprocal action", he added.

    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.

    US President Donald Trump hailed Wednesday's summit between Kim and Moon, saying there had been "tremendous progress" with North Korea, including on its denuclearisation.

    Speaking to reporters at the White House, Trump said agreements reached between the two Korean leaders at the meeting were "very good news".

    "He's calm and I'm calm so we'll see what happens," Trump said referring to Kim.

    But Republican Senator Lindsey Graham said he was concerned the Kim-Moon summit 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 toward denuclearisation," he tweeted.

    Landmark address

    Al Jazeera's Rod McBride, reporting from Seoul, described the "extraordinary scenes" from the stadium filled with people celebrating the "mass games". He noted the emotion in the voice of Moon, whose parents were refugees from North Korea.

    "It's hugely symbolic. It's very rare for a South Korean president to attend such events. They have in the past but it's a very controversial thing to do. To actually speak to the crowd - that never happens. This really is unprecedented territory," McBride said.

    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. "We agree to make active efforts to make the Korean Peninsula a land of peace."

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    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.

    "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

    As a next step, North Korea will allow experts from "concerned countries" to watch the closure of its missile engine testing site and launch pad in the northwestern town of Dongchang-ri, according to a joint statement signed by Moon and Kim.

    The facilities were a key test centre for North Korea's intercontinental ballistic missiles designed to reach the United States.

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    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 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.

    Progress has largely stalled after the high symbolism of the two leaders' first meeting in April at the Demilitarized Zone that divides the Korean Peninsula, and Kim's famous summit with Trump in Singapore in June.

    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 the Korean War is over.

    North Korea's Kim agrees to 'dismantle' key missile test sites

    SOURCE: Al Jazeera and news agencies


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