North Korea to close nuclear test site

Lofty rhetoric and big promises by Kim Jong Un meet with scepticism in Seoul

North Korea says UN sanctions are stopping it from paying UN fees
North Korean leader Kim Jong Un
(Image credit: STR/AFP/Getty Images)

28 March

Japan seeks summit with North Korea

Japan has contacted the North Korean government to suggest a bilateral summit, according to Japanese media reports.

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The news comes days after North Korean leader Kim Jong Un travelled to Beijing for surprise talks with Chinese President Xi Jinping.

Japanese Foreign Ministry officials are said to be getting “increasingly worried about being left out of the loop” in negotiations with North Korea.

“We have been communicating with North Korea through various occasions and means such as a route via our embassy in Beijing, but I would like to refrain from going into specifics,” Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga said in response to the Asahi Shimbun report.

Japanese officials have reportedly expressed concern over Tokyo’s failure to gather intelligence about the possible denuclearisation of the Korean Peninsula.

Following reports of the Kim-Xi meeting, Japanese PM Shinzo Abe told an Upper House Budget Committee session: “We are making every effort to gather and analyse intelligence while holding great interest. We also want to obtain a solid explanation from China.”

Kim is also due to hold a meeting with South Korean President Moon Jae-in on 27 April, the first talks between the two Koreas since 2007.

Officials from both countries will attend talks on 4 April to prepare security and media arrangements ahead of the summit, to be held at the Freedom House on the southern side of the Demilitarised Zone.

“There are stages and barriers,” the source said. “In particular, there’s no guarantee the Trump-Kim talks will go well.”

28 March

Kim Jong Un ‘pledges denuclearisation’ during surprise China visit

China has confirmed that Kim Jong Un has made an unannounced visit to Beijing this week, during which the North Korean leader reportedly pledged his commitment to denuclearising the Korean Peninsula.

The trip signals a “potential thaw” following seven years of tensions in inter-Korean relations over the North’s nuclear policy, says Nation Public Radio (NPR). According to the Washington DC-based news site, Kim reportedly told Chinese officials that North Korea would be willing to reduce the scale of its nuclear programme.

Chinese state news agency Xinhua says that Kim told Chinese leader Xi Jinping: “The issue of denuclearisation of the Korean Peninsula can be resolved, if South Korea and the United States respond to our efforts with goodwill, create an atmosphere of peace and stability while taking progressive and synchronous measures for the realisation of peace.”

However, not everyone is convinced by the North Korean dictator’s recent “charm offensive”. The leader of South Korea’s main opposition Liberty Korea Party, Hong Joon-pyo, has accused the North of “playing” the South and China, The Korea Herald reports.

“The Moon Jae-in administration... put Kim Jong Un behind the steering wheel and is claiming they are driving the car when they are just watching the nuclear weapon show from the back seat,” Hong said, before comparing this week’s talks with the ill-fated deal made by British PM Neville Chamberlain with Hitler shortly before the outbreak of the Second World War.

“The Moon administration’s inter-Korean peace charade, which has loosened South Korea’s alliance with the US and made China walk away from international sanctions, reminds me of Chamberlain’s Munich Agreement in September 1938.”

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