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North Korea promises transparency in nuclear site shutdown

North Korea’s state media had said before the summit that Pyongyang would immediately suspend nuclear and missile tests.

FILE: After President Trump's tweeted taunt at Kim Jong-un, North Korea reaches out to South Korea. Picture: CNN screengrab.

SEOUL - North Korean leader Kim Jong Un has pledged to close the country’s nuclear test site in May in full view of the outside world, Seoul officials said on Sunday, as US President Trump pressed for total denuclearisation ahead of his own unprecedented meeting with Kim.

On Friday, Kim and South Korean President Moon Jae-in vowed “complete denuclearisation” of the Korean peninsula in the first inter-Korean summit in more than a decade, but the declaration did not include concrete steps to reach that goal.

North Korea’s state media had said before the summit that Pyongyang would immediately suspend nuclear and missile tests, scrap its nuclear test site and instead pursue economic growth and peace.

Kim told Moon that he would soon invite experts and journalists from the United States and South Korea to “transparently open to the international community” the dismantling of the facilities, the Blue House said.

“Kim said if the United States holds dialogue with the North, they would realise that he’s not the kind of person who would fire a nuclear missile toward the South, over the Pacific or targeting the United States,” Moon’s press secretary Yoon Young-chan told a news briefing.

“If the United States meets often and builds trust with us and promises an end of war and non-aggression, why would we lead a difficult life?” Yoon reported Kim as saying.

Kim said there were two additional, larger tunnels that remain “alive and well” at the Punggye-ri test site beyond the existing one, which experts have said had collapsed after repeated explosions, rendering much of the site useless.

Kim’s promise shows his willingness to “preemptively and actively” respond to inspection efforts to be made as part of the denuclearisation process, Yoon said.

To facilitate future cross-border cooperation, Kim pledged to scrap the unique time zone Pyongyang created in 2015. He said the North would move its clocks forward 30 minutes to be in sync with the South, nine hours ahead of Greenwich Mean Time.

Kim also reaffirmed that he would not use military force against the South and raised the need for an institutional mechanism to prevent unintended escalations, Yoon said.