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North Korea’s Kim wants new summit with Trump soon to continue denuclearization

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un and South Korean President Moon Jae-in visited Sept. 20 Mount Paektu, the mystical birthplace of the first ruler of Korea. (Video: Associated Press)

TOKYO — North Korean leader Kim Jong Un wants to hold a second summit with President Trump soon to speed up the denuclearization process, South Korean President Moon Jae-in said Thursday.

Moon was speaking on his return to Seoul after a three-day meeting with Kim in Pyongyang.

At the talks, Kim promised to allow external inspectors into his country to verify that a missile test and launch site had been permanently dismantled, and he pledged to permanently disable an important nuclear site if the United States also takes “corresponding steps.”

The next possible moves by Washington remain unclear. On Wednesday, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said the United States was “prepared to engage immediately” with North Korea to move dialogue ahead.

Moon said Kim also wanted Pompeo to come to North Korea.

“Chairman Kim Jong Un said he wants Secretary Pompeo’s North Korea visit and a second summit with President Trump to happen at the earliest convenience in order to speed up the denuclearization process,” Moon told reporters.

Moon said Kim also told him that the closure of a nuclear weapons test site at Punggye-ri could be subject to international verification as well. He said he would discuss with Trump his and Kim’s goal of formally declaring an end to the Korean War by the end of this year.

Moon’s optimism about engagement with Kim contrasts with more cautious assessments among foreign observers of the regime.

Very few of these experts believe Kim is willing to surrender his entire nuclear arsenal, although some think he might be prepared to reduce it in return for economic benefits and guarantees that his regime will not be threatened.

U.S. intelligence officials, meanwhile, believe the Kim regime has stepped up the production of nuclear fuel at several secret sites this year, according to an NBC News report in June. If true, that would seriously undermine the significance of the concessions Kim is offering.

North Korea’s Kim offers to dismantle nuke site but only after U.S. acts

Moon noted that Trump and Kim both made pledges at their June summit in Singapore. North Korea promised to take steps toward complete denuclearization and returning the remains of U.S. service members killed in the war, while the United States pledged to “end hostilities, guarantee the security of the regime and establish a new relationship with North Korea,” he said.

“Such measures should be taken in a balanced manner between North Korea and the United States,” Moon said. Speaking of the need for North Korea to take denuclearization measures, he said that “the U.S. should accordingly take corresponding measures to guarantee the security of North Korea step by step.”

When asked what the corresponding measures would be, Moon said that needs to be discussed between North Korea and the United States.

Cheong Seong-chang, a North Korea expert at the Sejong Institute near Seoul, said the announcement shows that Kim has much more specific ideas now about denuclearization and what he wants in return. He added that the next summit should produce more specific results.

“The first meeting between Kim Jong Un and Trump yielded a rather general agreement, but now Kim seems to have a more concrete idea about what he wants to exchange with Trump,” Cheong said. “Given how Kim recently suggested a specific timetable for denuclearization, a more concrete agreement than the one in Singapore is expected to come out in the next summit.”

The Korean War ended in 1953 with an armistice rather than a peace treaty. North Korea wants South Korea and the United States to declare the war to be formally over, as a sign that hostilities have ended and to build trust.

“North Korea expressed their willingness to speed up their denuclearization actions if [the United States] takes actions to form a new U.S.-North Korea relationship,” Moon said.

Members of Trump’s administration are concerned that such a declaration could be used to undermine the justification for the presence of U.S. forces in South Korea, politically if not legally.

Kim reported from Seoul.

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Today’s coverage from Post correspondents around the world

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