During a historic meeting between Kim Jong-un and South Korean leader Moon Jae-in at the Demilitarized Zone between the two countries, Kim Jong-un told Moon Jae-in that North Korea would be willing to denuclearize in return for a commitment that the U.S. will not invade the country. During the meeting, which was broadcast live on the Korean Peninsula and around the world, the two leaders held hands and pledged to work for peace and replace the 1953 armistice with a formal peace treaty. The two countries have been involved a tense standoff on the Korean Peninsula that’s been in place since fighting in the Korean War ended 65 years ago.
The meeting was aimed at paving the way for Kim’s upcoming summit with President Trump. During the meeting, Kim signed a joint declaration affirming a “complete denuclearization” and “a nuclear-free Korean Peninsula.” According to the South Korean government, the North Korean leader said he would invite experts and journalists from South Korea and the U.S. to witness the closing of the country’s only known underground nuclear test site. Kim announced an end to nuclear and long-range missile testing last week.
The Trump administration has been firm that complete denuclearization is required for the lifting of economic sanctions that have been placed on the country for years. U.S. officials spoke cautiously about the chances of reaching a deal and laid out a plan for the dismantling of the North’s nuclear program over a two-year period. National security adviser John R. Bolton said That would be accompanied by a “full, complete, total disclosure of everything related to their nuclear program with a full international verification.”
The two countries have recently taken other steps toward peace since the meeting with the South Korean military beginning to dismantle loudspeakers that have been blaring propaganda into the North since 2016. North Korea has announced it will shift its clocks forward 30 minutes to align with South Korea’s time zone. South Korean leader Moon Jae-in has also convinced North Korea’s Kim Jong-un to hold an upcoming summit with President Trump at the Demilitarized Zone, known as the DMZ.
Skeptics warn that North Korea previously made similar pledges of denuclearization on numerous occasions, with little or no intention of abiding by them. Kim’s could turn out to be nothing more than empty promises aimed at lifting sanctions on his isolated country. They say the closing of the nuclear site could be symbolic since the site may already be too unstable for further testing. They also question the honesty of Kim’s intentions siting the practicality of monitoring and inspections of supposedly closed sites.
The Denuclearization announcement came as Secretary of State Mike Pompeo spoke for the first time about a “good conversation” he had with Mr. Kim during his secret visit to Pyongyang, the North Korean capital, over Easter weekend. “We had an extensive conversation on the hardest issues that face our two countries. I had a clear mission statement from President Trump. When I left, Kim Jong-un understood the mission exactly as I described it today” Mr. Pompeo said. Pompeo added that the administration’s objective was “complete, verifiable, irreversible denuclearization” with North Korea, and that Mr. Kim was prepared to “lay out a map that would help us achieve” denuclearization.