North Korea starts de-nuclearization, agrees to meet with South Korea

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North Korea has begun dismantling its only known nuclear testing site. The information was released by the specialized news website on the Korean peninsula “North 38”, citing satellite images from May 7.

According to the website, North Korea has already demolished several supporting buildings and removed some of the tracks for mining cars.

Pyongyang said last week it would dismantle the nuclear complex between May 23 and 25.

North Korean leader Kim Jong-un announced the dismantling of the Punggye-ri site during the summit with South Korean President Moon Jae-in at the end of April, saying that Pyongyang’s quest for nuclear weapons was complete.

The South Korean government welcomed Pyongyang’s plans to dismantle its nuclear test site. The presidential cabinet also said that the invitation to journalists from several countries would mean that the dismantling of the nuclear site would be transparent.

Pyongyang’s decision to close its nuclear test site was also praised by US President Donald Trump as a “smart” move.

Meanwhile, South Korea on Monday accepted North Korea’s proposal for a high-level meeting on May 16 in the Panmunjom region on the border between the two countries.

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The Yonhap news agency had earlier reported that North Korea had sent a proposal for high-level talks to discuss the agreements reached at the historic summit between the two countries at the end of April.

“The high-level meeting of North Korean and South Korean authorities on the implementation of the provisions of the Declaration of Peace will take place in Panmunjom on May 16,” the South Korean Unification Ministry said in a statement.

It is hoped that during the meeting the parties will address issues such as promoting the reunion of separated relatives between the South and the North as a result of the split. In addition, the parties can discuss the joint participation of South Korean athletes during the Asian Games.

At the end of April the first summit was held in ten years between the leaders of South Korea and North Korea. Kim Jong-un became the first North Korean leader to cross the military demarcation line into the South Korean zone. As a result of the summit, a joint statement was adopted in which Pyongyang and Seoul announced their intention to seek total denuclearization of the Korean peninsula, improve relations and strive for common prosperity and peaceful reunification.

Whether North Korea’s de-nuclearization initiative is actually a “smart” move is questionable based on recent history. Gaddafi’s Libya, formerly one of the most prosperous and egalitarian countries in Africa, was subject to foreign intervention and a destructive civil war after it surrendered its nuclear weapons. Syria’s effective disposal of its chemical weapons, confirmed by the UN’s Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons in 2013, has not prevented the US from continuing allegations of the use of such as a pretext for military aggression. Moreover, the Iran nuclear agreement, which has been one of the single most contentious points in global geopolitics, is now being put to a grueling test.

One thing is clear: The Democratic People’s Republic of Korea and the Republic of Korea are closer than ever to peace and reunification. Just how the US might take advantage of this process, especially if North Korea surrenders its nuclear bargaining-chip which has ensured its sovereignty for more than a decade now, is an open, potentially explosive question.

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