WASHINGTON/SEOUL — North Korean leader Kim Jong-un has expressed a willingness to allow inspectors into the country’s main nuclear complex, a senior diplomatic source said Tuesday, citing a message sent to US President Donald Trump.
Kim earlier expressed a willingness to permanently shut down the site in Yongbyon if the US took “corresponding” measures, but his apparent offer to allow verification has not been reported.
|North Korean leader Kim Jong-un (Yonhap)|
If true, Kim’s offer would mark a significant step toward meeting US demands for full and verified denuclearization, a position Washington has stuck to since a historic Trump-Kim summit in June.
“I understand that Chairman Kim told (South Korean) President Moon (Jae-in) during their summit in September that if the US took corresponding steps he would not only be willing to shut down the Yongbyon nuclear facilities but also allow verification,” the source with knowledge of US-North Korea negotiations told Yonhap.
Moon relayed the message to Trump when the two met in New York later that month, he added.
The revelation comes as negotiations between Washington and Pyongyang have stalled over US demands that denuclearization come first and North Korean demands for sanctions relief and a formal end to the 1950-53 Korean War.
A planned meeting between US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and a senior North Korean official was abruptly postponed earlier this month with no further announcements of a future meeting despite Trump’s intentions to hold a second summit with Kim early next year.
In addition to Yongbyon, Kim has already committed to permanently shut down a missile test site in Dongchang-ri under the inspection of outside experts and allow inspectors into the dismantled nuclear test site in Punggye-ri.
The last time North Korea allowed international nuclear inspectors into Yongbyon was in 2009.
“Chairman Kim’s willingness to allow verification signals his intention to lay down all of his nuclear weapons and facilities, which could brighten the prospects for nuclear negotiations,” said Shin Beom-chul, a national security analyst at the Asan Institute for Policy Studies in Seoul.
But he added that it remains to be seen how much the North will be willing to accept.
In 2008, North Korea agreed to allow inspections, interviews and document reviews, but refused to accept on-site sampling, leading to the breakdown of six-party nuclear talks, he recalled.
“If Chairman Kim means the same level of verification as in 2008, there will still be obstacles ahead,” said Shin. “But if it includes sampling and random inspections, that would be a very positive step.” (Yonhap)