Korean leaders visit sacred volcano amid nuclear talks

North Korea pledges to close down key missile test site

North Korea pledges to close down key missile test site

South Korean President Moon Jae-in answers a reporter's question after returning from North Korea at a press center for the inter-Korean summit in Seoul, South Korea. That visit to the North Korean capital saw him again play the role of peacemaker as talks between the USA and North Korea appeared on the verge of collapsing.

During the 2000 inter-Korean summit, then-North Korean leader Kim Jong-il had also promised then-South Korean President Kim Dae-jung that he would visit South Korea. "He expressed his intention to complete the denuclearization process as soon as possible and shift his focus to economic development".

Trump responded to news from the summit by saying he was "very excited", while Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said the United States was "prepared to engage immediately" with North Korea to move dialogue ahead.

Moon plans to return to South Korea later Thursday, as the leaders bask in the glow of the joint statement they settled Wednesday. On the eve of the Moon-Kim summit, an editorial in a North Korean state newspaper, Rodong Sinmun, blamed the USA for their diplomatic deadlock.

"He's calm, I'm calm - so we'll see what happens", Trump, who previous year threatened to destroy North Korea, told reporters.

The hope is that it will kickstart talks between the United States and North Korea which have stalled.

Kim, who recently proposed another summit with Trump after their unprecedented June talks in Singapore, said the North was willing to "permanently dismantle" key missile facilities in the presence of outside experts, and the Yongbyon main nuclear complex, if the United States took corresponding action.

A former human rights lawyer, he said in a 2017 book published months before his election as president that he wanted to "finish his life" in his mother's North Korean hometown doing pro-bono service.

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Other than that, however, there are scant details about what Pyongyang's demands are, or what concrete steps it would take to fulfill Kim's commitment to Trump in June.

It is an important caveat - Moon told reporters on his return to Seoul that the U.S. would need to "end hostile relations with North Korea and provide security guarantees for the North Korean regime". North Korea has been demanding a declaration formally ending the Korean War, which was stopped in 1953 by a ceasefire, but neither leader mentioned it Wednesday as they read the joint statement. The group had pictures taken at the mountain's summit.

Moon's office said the president's plane left Thursday after the two leaders visited the sacred Mount Paektu on the North Korean-Chinese border.

While Pyongyang has stopped nuclear and missile tests this year, it failed to keep its pledge to allow global inspections of its dismantling of the Punggye-ri site in May, stirring criticism that the move could be reversed. It also holds importance to both countries as the birthplace of the storied ruler of the first kingdom of Korea.

The leaders are basking in the glow of the joint statement they signed Wednesday.

Both Trump, who has repeatedly spoken of his good relationship with Kim, and the North Korean leader have expressed a desire to follow up on the June meeting in Singapore that was meant to settle an impasse that seemed to be edging toward war a year ago.

Other agreements aimed at removing some longstanding irritants from their relations, such as allowing more contact between families divided by the Korean War. Mr Moon also appeared to be making good on his proposals to help build up the North's infrastructure and open cross-border rail links.

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