South Korean President Moon Jae-in and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un exchange documents at a joint signing ceremony  after their summit in Pyongyang.- AFP
South Korean President Moon Jae-in and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un exchange documents at a joint signing ceremony after their summit in Pyongyang.- AFP

SOUTH KOREA: North Korean leader Kim Jong Un will make a historic visit to Seoul “in the near future”, he said Wednesday after a summit with the South’s Moon Jae-in in Pyongyang.

Moon -- who went North looking to bring fresh momentum to the stalled effort to eliminate Pyongyang’s nuclear weapons -- said the trip could happen this year unless there were “special circumstances”.

Moon added that the North had agreed to “permanently close” a missile engine testing site and launch facility in Tongchang-ri, “in the attendance of experts from relevant nations”.

The North has carried out several missile test launches from Sohae in the area -- its ballistic missile programme is banned under UN Security Council resolutions -- but has also used many other locations to fire rockets, including Pyongyang airport.

Satellite pictures in August suggested workers were dismantling an engine test stand, in line with a promise already made to US President Donald Trump.

Moon also said the North could close its Yongbyon nuclear facility if Washington takes “corresponding measures” -- a significant caveat.

And arms control expert Jeffrey Lewis said the consensus view was that its uranium enrichment facility “was built for (the) express purpose of being sacrificed”, tweeting that he presumed the North had “at least one more” production site.

After the high symbolism of the two leaders’ first meeting in April in the Demilitarized Zone that divides the Korean peninsula, and Kim’s historic summit with US President Donald Trump in Singapore in June, progress has largely stalled.

A Seoul visit by Kim would be the first by a Northern leader since the partition of the peninsula decades ago after the end of the 1950-53 Korean War.

Seoul and Pyongyang have both been keen to promote inter-Korean ties, with Kim looking to secure cooperation from the far wealthier South in economic projects, and Moon looking to reduce the risk of a US-North Korean conflict that would devastate his country.

Wednesday’s talks took place at the Paekhwawon official guesthouse on the outskirts of Pyongyang. The two leaders were shown on television walking down a long corridor talking together, followed by their wives, before entering a room where the cameras could not follow.

The summit was taking place in a “festive mood”, the South’s Joongang Daily said in an editorial, but warned that “Moon and his entourage must not forget why he is visiting Pyongyang:.

“Unlike the past, the success of the summit cannot be evaluated by the theatrics.

The only standard is whether it contributes to creating a nuclear-free Korean peninsula. It must provide a breakthrough to revive stalled US-North Korea talks,” it said.

The Rodong Sinmun newspaper, the mouthpiece of the North’s ruling party, has given the summit blanket coverage, with 35 photos over the first four of its six pages.

On the front, there was a photo of the two leaders shaking hands and hugging each other upon meeting at Pyongyang International Airport on Tuesday, with more inside of them parading together through the streets of the city, enjoying a concert and toasting at a banquet.

Pyongyang has been keen to promote an image of modernity and togetherness, reflected in several aspects of the programme.



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