Naturally, any promise made by North Korean leader Kim Jong Un is going to be met with a heavy dose of skepticism.
But during Kim’s historic meeting with South Korean President Moon Jae-in over the weekend, the North Korean leader made a significant promise he says is contingent on a pledge from the U.S.
According to officials of the South Korean government, Kim said he would be willing to give up his nuclear weapons if the U.S. commits to a formal end to the Korean War and a pledge not to attack North Korea.
South Korea also reported Friday that Kim has vowed to shut down North Korea’s nuclear test site in May and disclose the process to experts and journalists from South Korea and the United States.
“The U.S. is constitutionally averse to North Korea, but through dialogue, it will become apparent that we have no intention to target South Korea, the Pacific Ocean or the U.S. with nuclear weapons,” Moon’s spokesman, Yoon Young-chan, quoted Kim as saying.
“If we are able to build trust with the U.S. through frequent meetings, and promises to end war, and practice a policy of non-aggression, there’s no reason for us to live a hard life with nuclear weapons,” Kim was quoted as saying.
U.S. officials were quick to point out North Korea has made similar promises in the past, but those promises have not been kept.
“We want to see real commitment,” National Security Adviser John Bolton said Sunday on CBS’ “Face the Nation.” “We don’t want to see propaganda from North Korea. We’ve seen words. We’ve seen words so far.”
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said Sunday on ABC News that the Trump administration wants to see “complete, verifiable, irreversible denuclearization” from North Korea, and hopes Kim is prepared to “lay out a map that would help us achieve” denuclearization.
“We had an extensive conversation on the hardest issues that face our two countries,” Pompeo said of a secret meeting he had with Kim earlier this month. “I had a clear mission statement from President Trump. When I left, Kim Jong-un understood the mission exactly as I described it today.”
A time and place for a future meeting between Kim and Trump is still being negotiated, but Yoon said Kim expressed optimism about meeting with Trump.
“Once we start talking, the United States will know that I am not a person to launch nuclear weapons at South Korea, the Pacific or the United States,” Kim said, according to Yoon. “If we maintain frequent meetings and build trust with the United States and receive promises for an end to the war and a non-aggression treaty, then why would we need to live in difficulty by keeping our nuclear weapons?”
In a Saturday morning tweet, President Donald Trump said he was encouraged by the progress of the talks between North and South Korea.
Just had a long and very good talk with President Moon of South Korea. Things are going very well, time and location of meeting with North Korea is being set. Also spoke to Prime Minister Abe of Japan to inform him of the ongoing negotiations.
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) April 28, 2018
Patrick McEachern, a former State Department analyst now with the Washington-based Wilson Center, told the Associated Press that despite Kim’s reputation, it was still meaningful he expressed a pledge for complete denuclearization, considering he has spent most of the past two years bragging about how rapidly his nuclear arsenal had expanded.
“The public conversation should now shift from speculation on whether North Korea would consider denuclearization to how South Korea and the United States can advance this denuclearization pledge in concrete steps in light of North Korea’s reciprocal demands for concrete steps toward an eventual peace agreement,” McEachern said in an email to the Associated Press.
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