SEOUL (Reuters) - North Korean leader Kim Jong Un intends to abolish all nuclear weapons, materials and facilities to achieve “complete” denuclearization, South Korean President Moon Jae-in, who held his third summit with Kim last month, said on Friday.
Kim and U.S. President Donald Trump pledged to work towards denuclearization at their landmark June summit in Singapore, but the agreement was short on specifics. Negotiations have made little headway since, with the North refusing to declare its nuclear weapons and facilities or agree to a concrete timeline.
Moon emphasized Kim’s resolve to abandon nuclear and missile programs, that the North pursued in defiance of U.N. Security Council resolutions, and focus on the economy if regime security is guaranteed.
“By complete denuclearization, he meant to start by stopping additional nuclear and missile tests, and then abolish the facilities that produce the nukes and develop the missiles, and all the existing nuclear weapons and materials,” Moon said, according to a script of his interview with BBC shared by his office.
After his third summit in Pyongyang, Moon said the North was ready to invite international experts to watch the dismantling of a key missile site and would close the main Yongbyon nuclear complex if Washington took reciprocal actions.
The actions could include putting a formal end to the 1950-53 Korean War, opening of a U.S. liaison office in North Korea, humanitarian aid and an exchange of economic experts, Moon said.
Reclusive North Korea and the rich, democratic South are technically still at war because the conflict ended in a truce, not a peace treaty.
And when the North makes substantial progress in denuclearization, a gradual easing of economic sanctions Pyongyang should be “seriously considered,” Moon said.
The United States has insisted on irreversible steps towards denuclearization first.
“Ending the war is a sort of a political declaration to terminate the longstanding hostile relationship between the United States and North Korea, and it would kick off peace negotiations depending on the denuclearization process,” Moon said.
“There is consensus between South Korea and the United States that it is desirable to make the end-of-war declaration at an earliest possible date, so I think it’s a matter of time but it will definitely happen.”
His comments come amid U.S. concerns that inter-Korean relations may be warming too fast relative to negotiations to dismantle North Korea’s weapons programs.
U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has expressed “discontent” with an inter-Korean military pact reached during last month’s summit in a rare sign of disagreement between the allies.
The two Koreas agreed in that accord to halt military drills, set up a no-fly zone near the border and gradually remove landmines and guard posts within the Demilitarised Zone, among other steps.
Moon also said Pyongyang and Washington were in working-level discussions to arrange a second summit as soon as the U.S. midterm elections are over.
Trump said on Tuesday his second summit with Kim would be held after the elections slated for Nov. 6. It remains unclear what steps the United States plans to take towards denuclearization “of the Korean peninsula”, a reference North Korea has used in the past to include the U.S. nuclear umbrella in the region.
Seoul’s Unification Ministry said on Friday the two Koreas would hold high-level talks on Monday at the border village of Panmunjom.
At last month’s meeting, Moon and Kim agreed to resume economic cooperation, including relinking railways and roads and reopening a joint factory park and tours to the North’s Mount Kumgang resort, when conditions are met.
Reporting by Hyonhee Shin; Editing by Nick Macfie