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Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 16 October 2018

North Korea willing to dismantle missile test site and allow in inspectors

North and South outline significant steps towards peace and reconciliation 

South Korean President Moon Jae-in shakes hands with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un during a joint press conference at Paekhwawon State Guesthouse. Getty Images
South Korean President Moon Jae-in shakes hands with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un during a joint press conference at Paekhwawon State Guesthouse. Getty Images

North and South Korea agreed on Wednesday to take significant steps toward denuclearisation and reconciliation, in an ambitious plan to rekindle diplomatic ties.

North Korea conceded to dismantling a key missile test site under the watch of international inspectors, according to a joint statement signed by the North's leader Kim Jong-un and South Korean President Moon Jae-in in Pyongyang.

However, the North said it would only move towards dismantling its main Yongbyon nuclear site as long as the US takes reciprocal actions.

The countries agreed to create peace zones along the border, withdraw 11 guard posts each from the demilitarised zone and a joint excavation of war remains, in addition to a “buffer zone” to stop hostile acts.

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“We agreed to make active efforts to turn the Korean peninsula into the land of peace without nuclear weapons or nuclear threats,” Mr Kim said.

The North Korean leader will likely visit Seoul later this year, Mr Moon said.

“Chairman Kim has clearly shown a way to denuclearisation on the Korean peninsula today. We have agreed on a Korean Peninsula without nuclear weapons, without nuclear threats and without a war.”

Though progress on the key issue of the North's nuclear arsenal was limited, the two signed a document to strengthen ties between the two halves of the divided peninsula.

International sporting events and family reunions were also among other key points included in the statement.

The leaders plan to bid jointly for the 2032 Olympics and compete as one team at the 2020 Games in neighbouring Tokyo.

"The South and North agreed to actively participate jointly in international competitions including the 2020 Summer Olympics and to cooperate in bidding for the South-North joint hosting of the 2032 Summer Olympics," the statement said.

In addition, both countries decided to open a permanent meeting place for families long separated by the border and establish an avenue for video greetings and letters to be sent between loved ones.

Most separated families were driven apart during the 1950-53 Korean war.

Nearly 20,000 people have participated in 20 rounds of face-to-face reunions since 2000. Another 3,700 exchanged video messages with their North Korean relatives under a short-lived communication programme from 2005 to 2007. The latest three-day round of reunification took place last month and saw dozens of elderly Koreans embracing and crying.

No one has had a second chance to see their relatives, until now.

The two countries also agreed to “normalise” the Gaeseong complex and Kumgang tourism project and set up a special co-economic zone on the West Sea, if conditions allow. They are also set to connect existing railways and roads this year.

Mr Moon is the first South Korean leader to visit Pyongyang in 11 years. He said his “heart is very full today”.

“I feel overwhelmed that I can share these words today,” he said. “South and North Korea for the first time agreed on measures for denuclearisation. It is a very meaningful achievement.”