Thursday 16 August 2018

Kim 'is prepared to give up North Korea's entire nuclear arsenal'

North Korean leader Kim Jong-un with his wife Ri Sol-Ju at the Rungna People’s Pleasure Ground. Photo: Getty Images
North Korean leader Kim Jong-un with his wife Ri Sol-Ju at the Rungna People’s Pleasure Ground. Photo: Getty Images

Rozina Sabur

North Korea is prepared to accept "complete denuclearisation", South Korea's president said, after Donald Trump vowed to abandon talks with the regime if they were not "fruitful".

Kim Jong-un, the North Korean leader, is reportedly also no longer demanding that US troops leave South Korea as a condition for giving up his nuclear arsenal, a key stumbling block in previous negotiations.

Yesterday, Moon Jae-in, the South's president, announced that the North Korean regime had dropped the request from its list of demands ahead of talks.

"North Korea is expressing a commitment to a complete denuclearisation," Mr Moon told reporters. "They are not presenting a condition that the US cannot accept, such as the withdrawal of the American troops in South Korea.

"North Korea is only talking about the end of a hostile policy against it and then a security guarantee for the country."

If officially confirmed by Pyongyang, the move could speed up plans for the first summit between the US and North Korea's leaders.

Mr Moon made the announcement after Mr Trump threatened to abandon his planned meeting with Mr Kim if he decided it would not be successful or walk out if it was not productive while he was there.

"If we don't think it's going to be successful, we won't have it," Mr Trump said at a news conference with Shinzo Abe, the Japanese prime minister late on Wednesday.

Mr Trump did not outline what would make the meeting a success, but has said the administration is "fighting very diligently to get the three Americans held captive in North Korea back".

The men are all US citizens of Korean ethnicity. Kim Sang-duk, or Tony Kim (59), had been on a one-month teaching assignment at the Pyongyang University when he was arrested last April as he was about to leave Pyongyang.

In May, Kim Hak-song, another academic attached to the university, was arrested. Both are accused of "hostile acts" against North Korea. Neither is yet thought to have been tried or convicted.

Kim Dong Chul (63), the third American, was convicted of subversion, espionage and insulting the North Korean leadership last April.

Mr Trump said his administration is "fighting very diligently to get the three American citizens back. I think there's a good chance of doing it; we're having very good dialogue".

Mike Pompeo, Mr Trump's CIA director, is thought to have discussed the captives with Mr Kim in an unannounced visit to Pyongyang over Easter.

Mr Trump wants to hold his historic meeting with the North Korean leader with only interpreters present, according to South Korean media.

Their meeting could take place as early as next month or June following a summit next week between Mr Kim and Mr Moon that will discuss relations between the North and South.

Sweden and Switzerland are among the places the White House is considering for the summit, according to people familiar with the matter.

Mr Pompeo - who is awaiting confirmation as secretary of state - is the highest-ranking US official to visit the isolated nation since former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright in 2000.

A White House official said Mr Pompeo travelled to Pyongyang over the Easter weekend, not "last week" as the president said in a tweet.

The US president told reporters on Tuesday that the administration had "started talking to North Korea directly" and was discussing five potential sites for the meeting.

"We have had direct talks at very high levels, extremely high levels with North Korea," Mr Trump said.

A landmark summit next week between Mr Kim and Mr Moon will set the tone for the later meeting being held with Mr Trump.

Yesterday, Mr Moon said that a peace treaty to formally end the Korean War "must be pursued" but signalled that such a deal would be dependent on North Korea giving up its nuclear weapons.

North and South Korea have both existed with an uneasy truce for almost seven decades after signing an armistice at the end of the Korean War of 1950 to 1953 but not a peace treaty.

"The armistice that has dragged on for 65 years must come to an end," said Mr Moon.

"If the inter-Korean summit or North Korea-US summit lead to denuclearisation, I think that it won't be too difficult to reach practical agreements in the big picture on creating a peace regime, normalising North Korea-US ties, or providing international aid for the improvement of the North Korean economy," he added.

© Daily Telegraph London

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