North Korean leader Kim Jong-un is ready to accelerate denuclearization of his country in exchange for security guarantees from the United States and wants to hold a second summit with U.S. President Donald Trump at an early date, South Korean President Moon Jae-in said Thursday.
Moon also said his government seeks to declare a formal end to the Korean War before the year's end, and that he will bring up the issue when he meets Trump in New York next week.
"Chairman Kim expressed his wish to finish complete denuclearization at an early date and focus on economic development," Moon said of his meeting with the North Korean leader in Pyongyang.
The remarks came after Moon's three-day trip to the North Korean capital for his third bilateral summit with Kim. The two Koreas technically remain at war as the 1950-53 Korean War ended only with an armistice, not a peace treaty.
Moon said he also had an additional message from Kim for the U.S. president.
"Among what we discussed, there are items that we did not include in the joint declaration," he said, referring to his joint declaration with Kim issued Wednesday in Pyongyang.
"I plan to deliver such messages in detail to the U.S. side should I visit the United States and hold a summit again with President Trump in the future," he added.
The South Korean president is set to visit New York next week to attend the U.N. General Assembly. His office Cheong Wa Dae has said he and Trump will hold a bilateral summit on Monday (New York time).
Those items discussed with Kim but not laid out in the Pyongyang declaration included an agreement to hold talks between the countries' parliaments, Moon said.
Moon's trip to Pyongyang was largely aimed at breaking a deadlock in denuclearization talks between the U.S. and North Korea that came after President Trump called off a North Korea trip by his top diplomat, Mike Pompeo, citing what he called a lack of progress in the North's denuclearization process.
The president said he and Kim dedicated nearly the entire first day of his three-day trip to discuss ways to completely denuclearize the Korean Peninsula and restart the stalled North Korea-U.S. dialogue.
"However, specific ways to denuclearize and corresponding measures basically are an issue that need to be discussed between the North and the U.S.," he said, apparently renewing his call for an early resumption of U.S.-North Korea talks.
Washington seemed to have complied when its Secretary of Defense Pompeo said earlier that the U.S. is "prepared to engage immediately in negotiations to transform U.S.-DPRK relations," referring to North Korea by its official name, the Democratic People's Republic of Korea.
The U.S. offer to resume its negotiations with the North comes after Kim offered to take additional denuclearization steps.
In his summit with Moon, the North Korean leader agreed to permanently dismantle his country's only missile engine test facility and launch pads in Dongchang-ri in the presence of international experts.
Kim also offered to dismantle the country's key nuclear facility in Yongbyon should the U.S. take corresponding measures.
The South Korean president stressed the need for the U.S. to take reciprocal measures for the North's denuclearization steps.
"As you know, North Korea completely dismantled its Punggye-ri nuclear test site. Chairman Kim said North Korea can no longer stage nuclear tests because it has completely dismantled its only nuclear test site and that the country can have that verified at any time," Moon told a press conference in Seoul shortly after his return from the North.
"In addition, should North Korea dismantle the Dongchang-ri missile engine site and launch pads, it will be unable to launch any more missiles or stage any attempt to further advance its missiles," he added.
"If that is the case, the U.S. side, as well as our side too, need to take steps that would eradicate our hostile relations with the North."
Moon said he will push for an early political declaration of a formal end to the Korean War as the first step to end the hostile relationship and provide security guarantees.
The president noted many in South Korea and the U.S. feared the move may weaken the South Korea-U.S. alliance, along with the rationale for keeping tens of thousands of U.S. troops in South Korea.
He said it could not be further from the truth.
"The idea of a formal end to the war that we use is the declaration of an end to the war that (the sides) agreed to sign in the same year they signed the (Korean) armistice 65 years ago. The concept that we use is that we will first make a political declaration of an end to the war and use that as a starting point for efforts to sign a peace treaty, and sign a peace treaty when North Korea achieves complete denuclearization," Moon said.
"A declaration of an end to the war is a political declaration that says we will end our hostile relations," he said, adding Kim also shared the idea.
Moon has already invited Kim to visit Seoul before the year's end. Kim has accepted the invitation. (Yonhap)