North Korea’s offer of concessions comes with a catch for US

North Korea

Kevin Lim THE STRAITS TIMES Handout Getty Images Donald Trump and Kim Jong Un at their summit in Singapore this summer

South Korean President Moon Jae-in answers a reporter's question after returning from North Korea at a press center for the inter-Korean summit in Seoul, South Korea.

In addition to inviting North Korean Foreign Minister Ri Yong Ho to meet when both are in NY next week for the annual UN General Assembly gathering of world leaders, Pompeo said Washington invited Pyongyang's representatives to meet the U.S. special representative for North Korea, Stephen Biegun, in Vienna at the "earliest opportunity".

North Korea's Kim Jong Un wants to hold a second summit with U.S. President Donald Trump soon to hasten denuclearization, South Korean President Moon Jae-in on Thursday quoted the North's leader as saying at a summit this week.

David Maxwell, a retired Army colonel who served in South Korea and is now a fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies in Washington, cautioned that Kim's objective is to weaken the U.S.

The United States is ready to engage in talks with North Korea "immediately", US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo says, with the aim of completing North Korea's denuclearisation by January 2021.

Pompeo's statement came after the North and South Korean leaders met for a third summit and declared that progress had been made in efforts to normalize relations. South Korea and the United States remain technically at war with North Korea because the 1950-53 Korean War ended in an armistice and not a peace treaty.

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To achieve this, the North also agreed to "permanently dismantle the Dongchang-ri missile engine test site and launch platform [also known as the Sohae Satellite Launch Station or the Tongchang-ri Missile and Space Launch Facility] under the observation of experts from relevant countries".

The North Korea ball is thoroughly back in Washington's court.

At the summit, South Korean Minister of National Defense Song Young-moo and First Vice Minister of People's Armed Forces of North Korea No Kwang Chul signed a comprehensive military agreement to halt military exercises along the military demarcation line by November 1 and remove 11 guard posts in the DMZ by year's end.

"The peace treaty will be fulfilled as the final step of complete denuclearization".

Still, the dismantling of the site in the country's northeast would have limited impact on North Korea's ability to pose a nuclear threat to the United States. South Korea's tactic of using the time provided by conventional deterrence to nudge North Korea toward keeping its denuclearization promises is the only viable course, and one trigger-happy politicians in Washington must not disrupt.

As a concession to the US, Pyongyang refrained from displaying its most advanced ballistic missiles during a huge military parade marking its 70th anniversary as a nation earlier this month.

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Such a declaration, which would fall short of a fully-fledged peace treaty, could give the impetus for North Korea to offer further concessions without prompting calls for United States troops to pull out.

Mr Moon urged unity for all Koreans in a speech he gave Wednesday night to the crowd gathered for North Korea's signature mass games.

Although Moon could have visited the summit sooner from the Chinese side, he had wanted to go by "stepping on our soil", Kim Eui-kyeom, a South Korean presidential spokesman, said at a briefing. "In this way, we could maintain the current momentum for peace and expand peace on the Korean peninsula to the whole region", Do said.

Mr Pompeo said he had invited North Korean Foreign Minister Ri Yong-ho to meet in NY next week where they are both due to attend the United Nations gathering of world leaders.

Even if North Korea were to shut down Yongbyon, officials and experts believe it has other secret nuclear facilities.

According to a statement signed by the countries' defence chiefs, the two Koreas agreed to establish buffer zones along their land and sea borders to reduce military tensions and prevent accidental clashes.

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President Moon Jae-in said repeatedly that it was his longtime dream to trek up Mount Baektu.

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