North Korea's Kim agrees to 'dismantle' key missile test sites


North Korea agreed to dismantle a key missile test site under the watch of worldwide inspectors and take other steps toward denuclearisation, according to a joint statement signed by Kim Jong-un and South Korean President Moon Jae-in in Pyongyang.

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un and South Korean President Moon Jae-in kicked off their third meeting of the year on Tuesday in Pyongyang, where cheering crowds greeted the leaders as they traveled through the capital.

About the recent meeting between Moon and Kim, the former's spokesman Yoon Young-chan said, "It's hard to say at this moment that the two leaders have reached any agreement".

North Korea has agreed to permanently shut down its nuclear research facilities at Yongbyon and the Dongchang-ri missile test site, and allow "relevant country experts" to visit these sites.

Soon after Moon arrived in North Korea on Tuesday, Kim expressed optimism about the future of the negotiations, thanking his counterpart for helping bring about his June summit meeting with Trump in Singapore.

Kim's latest promises come days before Moon meets Trump in NY on the sidelines of the U.N. General Assembly next week.

Later on Wednesday, Mr. Moon's delegation will tour the Mansudae Art Studio, the North's largest producer of art where state artists build statues and produce propaganda at a sprawling complex in Pyongyang.

President Trump called the North Korean commitments "very exciting" on Twitter.

Those U.S. steps could include an end-of-war declaration, South Korea's national security adviser, Chung Eui-yong, told reporters.

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Andrew Lankov, a professor at Kookmin University in Seoul, said it would take time to understand the significance of what Kim was offering, especially in relation to its Yongbyon facility, home to the country's only nuclear reactor and key to its production of weapons-grade plutonium - although other sites are believed to exist producing highly enriched uranium.

The question is whether it will be enough for U.S. President Donald Trump to pick up where Moon has left off.

In previous, failed talks, North Korea has said it could consider giving up its nuclear program if the United States provided security guarantees by removing troops from South Korea and withdrawing its so-called nuclear umbrella of deterrence from the South and Japan.

Both North and South Korean leaders want the U.S. to sign off on formally ending the Korean War, which still technically continues because no peace treaty has ever been signed.

The two Koreas have reportedly "agreed to take military measures to prevent accidental military clashes and ensure safe fishing activities by turning the area around the Northern Limit Line in the West Sea into a maritime peace zone".

The neighbours remain still technically at war because the Korean War ended in armistice and not a peace treaty.

The pair also announced that the two Koreas would compete together at the Olympics in 2020 and make a joint bid to hold the Summer Games in 2032, and also pledged to allow more contact between families divided by the Korean War.

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.

What is perhaps most significant about the declaration on Tongchang-ri is that North Korea will be inviting global experts to observe and verify the dismantlement activity at the site.