US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said Washington would agree to lift sanctions on North Korea if the country agrees to completely dismantle its nuclear weapons program, a move that would create economic prosperity that “will rival” that of South Korea, Reuters reports.
North Korea will dismantle its nuclear bomb test site sometime between May 23 and 25 in order to uphold its pledge to discontinue nuclear tests, according to the country’s state media.
The official Korean Central New Agency said dismantlement of the Punggye-ri nuclear test ground will involve collapsing all of its tunnels with explosions, blocking its entrances, and removing all observation facilities, research buildings and security posts.
“The Nuclear Weapon Institute and other concerned institutions are taking technical measures for dismantling the northern nuclear test ground … in order to ensure transparency of discontinuance of the nuclear test,” KCNA said.
US President Donald Trump welcomed the North Korean announcement.
“North Korea has announced that they will dismantle Nuclear Test Site this month, ahead of the big Summit Meeting on June 12th,” he tweeted. “Thank you, a very smart and gracious gesture! Thank you, a very smart and gracious gesture!”
Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un will hold talks in Singapore on June 12, the first-ever meeting between a sitting US president and a North Korean leader.
Pompeo said the United States would not be willing to invest taxpayer dollars to help the country, but was willing to “lift sanctions” to pave the way for private American investment in North Korea’s energy, agriculture and infrastructure sectors.
“What Chairman Kim will get from America is our finest – our entrepreneurs, our risk takers, our capital providers. … They will get private capital that comes in. North Korea is desperately in need of energy … for their people. They are in great need of agricultural equipment and technology,” he said on CBS’ Face the Nation.
“We can create conditions for real economic prosperity for the North Korean people that will rival that of the South,” he added.
Reunited with families
Last month, Pompeo became the first known US official to meet with Kim, where he helped lay the groundwork for the upcoming meeting with Trump.
He returned again to North Korea last week for a second meeting, after which Kim agreed to the release of the three American prisoners.
The Pentagon said the three Americans had left Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Washington and been reunited with their families.‘
Lieutenant Colonel Mike Andrews, a Defense Department spokesman, described former prisoners Kim Dong-chul, Kim Sang-duk, who is also known as Tony Kim, and Kim Hak-song as being “grateful, in good spirits and coping well” when they left the hospital after medical evaluations.
“The returnees have been reunited with their families. Their time together has been an incredibly joyous occasion. They ask for privacy as they transition home,” Andrews said.
In spite of its pledge to stop testing, however, North Korea has given no indication it is willing to go beyond statements of broad conceptual support for denuclearization by unilaterally abandoning a nuclear weapons program its ruling family has seen as crucial to its survival.
In announcing the plan to shut Punggye-ri last month, Kim said North Korea no longer needed to conduct tests because it had completed its goal of developing nuclear weapons.
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