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Thursday, 27 June 2019

N. Korea's Kim says to visit Seoul, shut missile site

AFP , Wednesday 19 Sep 2018
Korea
South Korean President Moon Jae-in and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un attend their meeting in Pyongyang, North Korea, September 19, 2018. (Reuters)
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North Korea's Kim Jong Un will soon make a historic visit to Seoul, he said Wednesday, and has agreed to close a missile testing site in front of international inspectors, as a rare inter-Korean summit unfolded in Pyongyang.

However, progress on the key issue of dismantling the North's nuclear arsenal was limited, even though the South's President Moon Jae-in had hoped to bring fresh momentum to stalled talks between his hosts and the United States.

Kim said he would travel to Seoul "in the near future", adding that the agreement he signed with Moon "carries the people's fresh hope and the people's strong, flaming desire for reunification".

The visit would be the first by a Northern leader to Seoul since the end of the 1950-53 Korean War, when hostilities ceased with an armistice rather than a peace treaty, leaving the divided peninsula technically in a state of war.

Talks in Pyongyang built on a growing rapprochement, with the two leaders agreeing Wednesday to hold family reunions on a regular basis, work towards joining up road and rail links, and mount a combined bid for the 2032 Olympics.

Moon said Kim's visit to Seoul could happen this year and would be a "turning point in South-North relations".

The North had agreed to "permanently close" a missile engine testing site and launch facility in Tongchang-ri "in the presence of experts from relevant nations", he added.

At Kim's historic summit with US President Donald Trump in Singapore in June -- brokered by Moon -- he declared his backing for denuclearisation of the peninsula.

But no details were agreed and Washington and Pyongyang have since sparred over what that means and how it will be achieved.

Trump welcomed Wednesday's declaration, tweeting that Kim had "agreed to allow Nuclear inspections, subject to final negotiations" and adding: "Very exciting!"

But experts were sceptical.

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