UPDATE : 2018.11.14 WED 17:34
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N.K. leader understands denuclearization should involve inspection: Seoul official

North Korean leader Kim Jong-un appears to understand that the process of the North's denuclearization needs to entail inspection and verification, a senior government official said Wednesday.

President Moon Jae-in and North Korean leader Kim agreed during their summit last week to seek "complete" denuclearization, but details about how the North will dismantle its nuclear program have not been revealed.

"It is nonsense to seek a nuclear-free Korean Peninsula without inspection and verification," a ranking government official told reporters. "The North's leader appears to adequately understand (that)."

"The North has said that it will close down the nuclear test site with international experts and reporters attending. I think this shows that Pyongyang has a strong will for (allowing) an inspection as well," he added.

The North offered to close down its nuclear test site Punggye-ri in May and will make public its dismantlement by inviting security experts and journalists to the North, President Moon's chief press secretary Yoon Young-chan told reporters Sunday.

Moon on Tuesday requested the United Nations to play a role in verifying North Korea's commitment to denuclearization and peace on the peninsula, his office said.

The government official clarified that the two Koreas will seek a declaration of ending the 1950-53 Korean War this year, adding that turning the armistice into a peace treaty is not necessarily this year's goal.

"Clinching a peace treaty is set as a goal to be pursued at the final stage of (North Korea's) denuclearization," the official said. "This year, we are aiming at declaring an end to the war."

The joint summit declaration has cause some confusion over interpreting the timing of a declaration of an end to the war and a peace treaty.

It said that the two Koreas agreed to seek trilateral meetings involving them and the United States or four-way talks also joined by China to discuss a peace regime on the Korean Peninsula.

But Beijing has complained about the possibility of being left behind in the peacemaking process on the Korean Peninsula.

"I think that China would definitely participate in the direction (of the process)," the official said.

He also added that the leaders of the two Koreas did not touch upon the role of U.S. forces stationed in South Korea at last week's summit.

North Korea has long called for Washington's withdrawal of some 28,500 troops in the South as one of the steps for guaranteeing the security of its regime.

"When discussing a war-ending declaration and a peace treaty, it could be more important to keep and manage peace on the peninsula," the official said. "We think that the role of U.S. forces stationed in the South is very important."

Meanwhile, Unification Minister Cho Myoung-gyon told reporters that there is a high possibility that the so-called Panmunjom Declaration will be implemented, given the current leaderships of the Koreas.

"A virtuous circle of developing inter-Korean ties and denuclearizing the Korean Peninsula has begun to move in earnest from now on," he added. "In that sense, the upcoming U.S-North Korea summit is very important."

Hwi Won  edt@koreapost.com

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