N Korea ready to let inspectors into missile, nuclear sites

SEOUL: International inspectors will be allowed into North Korea’s dismantled nuclear testing site, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said on Monday, after a meeting with Kim Jong Un in which he said “significant progress” was made towards denuclearisation.
Pompeo met with the North Korean leader in Pyongyang on Sunday to rekindle stalled denuclearisation talks following a landmark summit between Kim and US President Donald Trump in Singapore.
“Chairman Kim said he’s ready to allow them to come in” and see the dismantled Punggye-ri nuclear test site, Pompeo said.
North Korea took apart the Punggye-ri facility in the country’s northeast in May but has yet to allow international observers into the site to verify its claims.
The facility, buried inside a mountain near the border with China, was the staging ground for all six of the North’s nuclear tests.
The inspectors will be allowed in as soon as the two sides agree on “logistics”, Pompeo told reporters in Seoul before leaving for Beijing on a whirlwind diplomatic trip.
Pompeo, however, did not comment on possible corresponding measures to be taken by Washington.
Denuclearisation of North Korea is “a long process”, Pompeo said, adding: “We made significant progress.” The top US diplomat also said the two countries were “pretty close” to setting a date and location for the second summit between Kim and Trump.
South Korean President Moon Jae-in said on Monday that he believed Kim would soon meet with the leaders of China and Russia “soon” as a “new order is being created on the Korean peninsula”.
The Kremlin too on Monday confirmed the coordination with North Korea on possible visit of leader Kim Jong Un.
“Consultations on the possible date, place and format of such a visit are under way,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said in comments carried by state news agency TASS.
Russia and China, which border North Korea, have relatively close diplomatic relations with the insular authoritarian state. Pyongyang has made overtures to Seoul and Washington this year towards ending the conflict on the Korean peninsula and denuclearising.
Kim has had several official visits to China since becoming North Korea’s supreme leader seven years ago, but has yet to have one to Russia. Kim skipped a planned visit to Russia three years ago, opting to send a senior official instead.
The speaker of Russia’s upper house of parliament, Valentina Matviyenko, said after a visit to Pyongyang last month that Kim expressed interest in visiting Russia in the near future, state media reported. As Pyongyang continues to take big diplomatic strides, analysts say the US may soon be pushed into a corner to relax sanctions.
“North Korea is bolstering its ties with China and Russia so although the US is maintaining the sanctions regime, it’s on thin ice,” said Hong Hyun-ik, an analyst at the Sejong Institute.
China and Russia called for relaxed sanctions against Pyongyang at the UN Security Council last month, saying “steps… towards gradual disarmament should be followed by an easing of sanctions.” — AFP