June 2, 2023, 12:01 pm

A. Malek

2018-09-20 11:08:24 BdST

Two Koreas leaders in mountain show of unity

Kim Jong Un and Moon Jae-in headed for the spiritual birthplace of the Korean nation Thursday for a show of unity after their North-South summit gave new momentum to Pyongyang’s negotiations with Washington.

The North Korean leader on Wednesday agreed to shutter the Tongchang-ri
missile-testing site in the presence of international observers, a move the
US welcomed by saying it was ready for immediate talks aimed at
denuclearising the North by January 2021.

Pyongyang also said it could dismantle its best-known nuclear facility at
Yongbyon, if the US takes “corresponding measures”, as Kim and the South
Korean president held their third summit this year.

It is an important caveat, but the declaration appeared to break the
logjam in nuclear discussions with Washington.

President Donald Trump welcomed the move, tweeting that Kim had “agreed to
allow Nuclear inspections, subject to final negotiations”, adding: “Very

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo also praised the “important commitments”,
saying he spoke with his North Korean counterpart and invited him to meet
next week on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly.

Negotiations had stalled since the historic Singapore summit between Trump
and Kim in June, when Kim declared his backing for denuclearisation of the
peninsula but no details were agreed.

Washington and Pyongyang have subsequently sparred over what that means
and how it will be achieved, with the Trump administration consistently
referring to the denuclearisation of North Korea specifically.

For its part Pyongyang has condemned demands for its unilateral
disarmament as “gangster-like”.

Experts remain sceptical, pointing out that Pyongyang has already said
several times it has no need for further testing.

– Peak diplomacy –

Moon and Kim have sought to strengthen the North-South relationship at
their Pyongyang summit, agreeing that the North Korean leader will visit
Seoul “at an early date”.

Moon said the historic trip could happen later this year. It would be the
first by a North Korean leader since the Korean War ended in a 1953
armistice, leaving the peninsula divided by the Demilitarized Zone and
technically still in a state of war.

The two leaders also agreed to a open permanent facility for family
reunions, work towards joining up road and rail links, and bid jointly for
the 2032 Olympics.

On Thursday, Moon and Kim flew separately from Pyongyang to Samjiyon
airport near Mount Paektu, media pool reports said.

Video footage showed Moon’s motorcade passing through Pyongyang streets
lined with crowds in their Sunday best, waving flags and flowers and chanting
“Unification of the fatherland!”

The two drove from Samjiyon to Mount Paektu on the Chinese border, a
Southern presidential spokesman told journalists.

The 2,744-metre (9,003-foot) peak is considered sacred to all Koreans as
the birthplace of Dangun, the legendary founder of the first Korean kingdom.

According to Pyongyang’s narrative, it is also said to be where Kim Il
Sung, the country’s founder and Kim Jong Un’s grandfather, led his anti-
Japanese guerilla campaign during the 1910-45 colonial rule.

South Korean tourists flock to see the mountain via China but only a
handful of Southerners have been granted access from the North Korean side,
mostly for research purposes.

After the excursion, Moon will fly directly back to Seoul, the spokesman
added, ending his three-day visit to the North.


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