Kim Jong-un: North Korea to allow foreign experts to witness nuclear site closure in May




 

North Korea's leader Kim Jong-un has said that he will dismantle his country's main nuclear testing site in May, and that South Korean and US experts and journalists will be allowed to view the process.

The dictator's pledge was made to Moon Jae-in, South Korea's prime minister, during their historic talks on Friday, according to Mr Moon's spokesman, Yoon Young-chan. As well as promising to close the Punggye-ri bomb testing site Kim said he would change North Korea's time zone by half an hour, reverting it to match South Korea's.

Kim and Mr Moon, meeting in a 'truce village' between their countries' borders on Friday, pledged to work towards the "complete denuclearisation" of the Korean peninsular. The meeting, which some analysts have criticised for not producing firm plans for denuclearisation, came ahead of Kim's scheduled talk with Donald Trump, expected within the next few weeks.

According to a team of Chinese geologists the Punggye-ri site may not be usable anyway, having reportedly suffered a land collapse following North Korea's sixth nuclear bomb test in September last year. However, according to Mr Yoon, Kim said the site has new tunnels that are bigger than its earlier-built facilities.

On Sunday Mr Yoon quoted Kim as saying: "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 … 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 ee need to live in difficulty by keeping our nuclear weapons?"

Rocket man: How Kim Jong-un emerged from his father's shadow to silence the doubters

Analysts have cast doubt over the meaningfulness of Kim's pledge. Before Friday's talks Jeffrey Lewis, director East Asia Nonproliferation Program at the Middlebury Institute of International Studies, said that Kim did not need the Punggye-ri site and could "shift big tests to neighbouring mountains".

Mr Yoon suggested that Kim's decision to alter North Korea's time zone was made when he saw two wall clocks in a summit room showing different times for the two countries, finding it "heartbreaking".

Korean detente How did we get here?

In August 2015 North Korea announced a new 'Pyongyang time' zone for the country, which was half an hour before Japan and South Korea's time zone. The move was made to symbolically distance North Korea from Japan, which occupied the country from 1910 until 1945.

Professor Tong Zhu, fellow in the Nuclear Policy Program at Beijing's Carnegie-Tsinghua Center for Global Policy, told The Telegraph that such gestures would not make North Korea's full denuclearisation more likely. "There is no way that North Korea is going to give up its nuclear deterrent capability," he said.

He added: "North Korea worked so hard to obtain that capability in the first place. Its primary objective is to keep its nuclear capabilities, then the next priority is to address all the negative consequences resulting from its nuclear development. And then to develop a normal relationship with the rest of the international community."

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