US ready 'to engage immediately' with North Korea

Saul Bowman
September 21, 2018

His Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on Wednesday invited North Korean Foreign Minister Ri Yong Ho to meet next week on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly in NY.

Kim is also eager to restart talks and hopes to have a second summit with Trump, President Moon said Thursday.

Kim vowed to move toward denuclearization if the United States takes steps of its own.

The games marked the end of the South Korean president's second day in the capital.

While a formal peace regime officially ending the Korean War would need buy in from the United States and China - the other participants in the conflict - experts agree that there is nothing to stop the two Koreas declaring an end to the war themselves, or signing a bilateral peace treaty. An end-of-war declaration would be the first step toward an eventual formal peace treaty, but the United States is wary about signing off on something that could result in Kim pushing for the removal of USA troops stationed in South Korea to deter the North.

Dressed in long black coats and accompanied by their wives, Kim and Moon raised their grasped hands while posing in front of the lake at Mount Paektu on Thursday.

"The peace treaty will be fulfilled as the final step of complete denuclearization".

It is an important caveat - Moon told reporters on his return to Seoul that the United States would need to "end hostile relations with North Korea and provide security guarantees for the North Korean regime". "He expressed his intention to complete the denuclearization process as soon as possible and shift his focus to economic development".

Kim, who recently proposed another summit with Trump after their unprecedented June talks in Singapore, said the North was willing to "permanently dismantle" key missile facilities in the presence of outside experts, and the Yongbyon main nuclear complex, if the United States took corresponding action.

Moon said Kim was also open to inspection of a nuclear test site in the northwest town of Punggye-ri, which he called the North's sole existing facility for underground detonations.

But Harry Kazianis, director of defence studies at the Washington-based Centre for the National Interest, said the U.S. could eventually accept North Korea's step-by-step approach to ending its nuclear programme.

"Many people in the South would go to Mount Paektu from the China side, but I decided not to, pledging myself that I would go stepping on our soil", Moon told Kim after reaching the peak of the mountain.

Kim also pledged establishing closer ties with the South.

Then Moon, Kim and their wives took a cable auto to reach the crater lake for a commemorative photo.

The stone was unveiled during a tree-planting ceremony attended by Moon and senior North Korean official Choe Ryong Hae on Wednesday.

Paektu is claimed to be the birthplace of Dangun, legendary... Not everyone was pleased, though.

The mountain is featured heavily in North Korean propaganda, and Kim has made trips to its summit after nuclear tests or major announcements, most recently when he declared the country's nuclear arsenal complete.

The leaders are basking in the glow of the joint statement they settled Wednesday. Compared to the vague language of their two earlier summits, Kim and Moon seem to have agreed on an ambitious program meant to tackle soaring tensions that caused many to fear war previous year as the North tested a string of increasingly powerful weapons.

Speaking at a joint news conference in Pyongyang, the two Korean leaders agreed to turn the Korean Peninsula into a "land of peace without nuclear weapons and nuclear threats".

The North Korea ball is thoroughly back in Washington's court.

The hope is that it will kickstart talks between the U.S. and North Korea which have stalled.

The question is whether it will be enough for Mr Trump to pick up where Mr Moon has left off. Mr Trump told reporters Wednesday that the outcome of the summit was "very good news" and that "we're making tremendous progress" with North Korea.

The January 2021 target date was the most specific deadline in what is expected to be a long, drawn-out process.

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