Trump Brings North Korea in from the Cold
North Korea plans to close its nuclear weapons test site in May and give South Korean and US experts and the media access to the process, South Korea says.
The closure was apparently decided upon when North Korean leader Kim Jong-un and South Korean President Moon Jae-in met for a historic summit on Friday. They also agreed to make the dismantlement public, Moon’s chief press secretary Yoon Young-chan said.
“Some say that we are terminating facilities that are not functioning, but you will see that they are in good condition,” Yoon quoted Kim as saying. The North’s leader said he would invite security experts and journalists. He said his country won’t need nukes if the US promises non-aggression, Yonhap reports.
The Seoul spokesperson also said Kim will change the North Korean time zone to match that of the South. Currently, Seoul is 30 minutes ahead of Pyongyang.
Friday’s summit appears to have been a breakthrough in winding down the crisis on the Korean Peninsula. For the first time in over a decade, the leaders of the North and the South met at the border and eventually signed a declaration of shared commitment to the complete denuclearization of the peninsula. They also agreed to have further talks that would include other countries, including Seoul’s ally the US and Pyongyang’s backer China, in an effort to finally sign a peace accord instead of the truce that has been in place since the Korean War ended in 1953.
The next step is Kim’s much-awaited meeting with US President Donald Trump, which could happen as soon as within the next three or four weeks. Trump has been pursuing what he calls a “maximum pressure” policy against North Korea, with severe economic sanctions and near-constant live-fire military drills at its border, as well as a Twitter offensive, which included name-calling, threats and boasting about having a bigger nuclear button. Trump has now moved on to calling Kim “very honorable,” but he has still threatened to walk out of the talks if he doesn’t deem them to be fruitful.
The highly-anticipated summit between the US and North Korean leaders will take place within the next month, US President Donald Trump said at a rally in Michigan. He said he would be doing the world “a big favor.”
Addressing a crowd of supporters in Michigan, Trump indicated that his meeting with North Korea’s leader Kim Jong-un was a decided matter, and narrowed down the possible date.
“We’re going to have, hopefully, a very successful negotiation over the next three or four weeks,” Trump said. The previously expected range was from May to June. The meeting, the first of its kind for a sitting US president, will focus on the denuclearization of the Korean peninsula, Trump said.
“We’ll be doing the world a big favor. Let’s see how it goes. I think we’re going to do fine. We’re going to do just fine,” he said.
Trump vowed to stick to his hardline approach of “not playing games” with North Korea, and the crowd exploded in chants of “Nobel! Nobel!”
The US president, all smiles, took a few seconds to bask in the praise, then humbly acknowledged: “That’s very nice, thank you. I just want to get the job done,” which elicited another round of cheering.
With an offhand swipe at the “fake news” media, Trump claimed it was his firm stance on North Korea that spawned progress in Pyongyang’s de-nuclearization.
“Remember what they were saying? He’s going to get us into nuclear war, they said. No, no, no — strength is going to keep us out of nuclear war, not going to get us in,” Trump, who once infamously threatened Pyongyang with “fire and fury,” said.
“I had one of the fake news groups this morning, they were saying, ‘what do you think President Trump had to do with it?’ I’ll tell you what — like, how about everything,” he added.
Last week, North Korea announced the indefinite suspension of all its nuclear and missile tests and the closure of a major test site. The surprising announcement raised speculations that the shutdown of the site was temporary or was forced because it is no longer operable. However, South Korea on Saturday said that the North insisted the site was perfectly in order and invited media and security experts to oversee its closure planned for May.
Trump was speaking a day after a landmark summit between Kim and South Korean President Moon Jae-in, during which the leaders of two Koreas reiterated their commitment to making the peninsula completely nuclear-free and expressed hope for a permanent peace treaty to replace the 1953 truce by the end of the year.
Ahead of the rally in Michigan, Trump got a briefing on the summit from Moon, with both agreeing that “unprecedented pressure” by Washington, Seoul and the international community “led to this significant moment.”
Tweeting after the call, Trump confirmed that the “time and location of meeting with North Korea is being set.” While no official venue has been yet announced, CBS News reported, citing administration sources, that the White House is now choosing between Mongolia and Singapore. Vladivostok has been named as another possible spot.