PYONGYANG, North Korea (AP) The leaders of North and South Korea announced a wide range of agreements today which they said was a major step toward peace on the Korean Peninsula. But the premier pledge on denuclearization contained a big condition, with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un stating hed permanently dismantle his main nuclear complex only if the United States takes unspecified corresponding measures.
Compared to the vague language of their two summits earlier this year, Kim and South Korean President Moon Jae-in agreed in their second day of meetings to an ambitious program meant to tackle soaring tensions last year that had many fearing war as the North tested a string of increasingly powerful weapons.
Kim promised to accept international inspectors to monitor the closing of a key missile test site and launch pad and to visit Seoul soon, and both leaders vowed to work together to try to host the Summer Olympics in 2032.
But while containing several tantalizing offers, their joint statement appeared to fall short of the major steps many in Washington have been looking for such as a commitment by Kim to provide a list of North Koreas nuclear facilities, a solid step-by-step timeline for closing them down, or an agreement to allow international inspectors to assess progress or discover violations.
It also was unclear what corresponding steps North Korea wants from the U.S. to dismantle its nuclear site.
The question is whether it will be enough for U.S. President Donald Trump to pick up where Moon has left off. Trump, tweeting about the Korean leaders agreements, said, Very exciting!
Declaring they had made a major step toward peace, Moon and Kim stood side by side as they announced the joint statement to a group of North and South Korean reporters after a closed-door meeting today morning. They took no questions.
We have agreed to make the Korean Peninsula a land of peace that is free from nuclear weapons and nuclear threat, Kim said at the guesthouse where Moon is staying. The road to our future will not always be smooth and we may face challenges and trials we cant anticipate. But we arent afraid of headwinds because our strength will grow as we overcome each trial based on the strength of our nation.
Kim and Moon earlier smiled and chatted as they walked down a hallway and into a meeting room to finalize the joint statement, which also said that the leaders would push for a Korean Peninsula without nuclear weapons and to eliminate all the danger of war. Moon and Kim planned to visit a volcano sacred to the North on Thursday, the last day of Moons visit.
This weeks summit comes as Moon is under increasing pressure from Washington to find a path forward in efforts to get Kim to completely and unilaterally abandon his nuclear arsenal.
Trump has maintained that he and Kim have a solid relationship, and both leaders have expressed interest in a follow-up summit to their meeting in June in Singapore. North Korea has been demanding a declaration formally ending the Korean War, which was stopped in 1953 by a cease-fire, but neither leader mentioned it Wednesday as they read the joint statement.
In the meantime, however, Moon and Kim made concrete moves of their own to reduce tensions on their border.
According to a statement signed by the countries defense chiefs, the two Koreas agreed to establish buffer zones along their land and sea borders to reduce military tensions and prevent accidental clashes. They also agreed to withdraw 11 guard posts from the Demilitarized Zone by December and to establish a no-fly zone above the military demarcation line that bisects the two Koreas that will apply to planes, helicopters and drones.
Though not directly linked to security, the leaders announcement that they would seek a joint Summer Olympics was a significant move in terms of easing tensions and building trust. It also flows from the Norths decision to participate in the Pyeongchang Winter Games in February, which was regarded as a success for both sides.
Other agreements aimed at removing some longstanding irritants from their relations, such as allowing more contact between families divided by the Korean War. Moon also appeared to be making good on his proposals to help build up the Norths infrastructure and open cross-border rail links.
Unlike Trumps initial tweets praising the summit, the news brought a quick and negative response from Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham, who tweeted that he was concerned the visit would undermine efforts by Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley to impose maximum pressure on the North.
While North Korea has stopped testing missiles and nuclear devices, they have NOT moved toward denuclearization, he tweeted.