North Korean leader Kim Jong-un offered some of the first concrete steps toward denuclearization this week, committing in a meeting with Moon Jae-in, his South Korean counterpart, to dismantle the North’s nuclear test site in exchange for concessions from the United States.
Kim’s promise to dismantle Yongbyon, where the country is believed to produce plutonium and highly enriched uranium, and to allow independent experts to observe the dismantling, is one of the first real steps toward denuclearization offered by his regime. But the offer comes with a caveat. Before Yongbyon is destroyed, the U.S. must first agree to a formal end to the Korean War, something it has refused to do until there is proof of denuclearization.
Despite the apparent impasse, South Korean officials described Kim’s promise as “a concrete achievement” of the summit with Moon, where the countries also agreed to launch a bid for the 2032 Olympics and the North Korean leader said he’ll be the first head of his nation to visit Seoul. President Trump celebrated the news too, calling it “very exciting” in a tweet.
It’s worth noting that this isn’t the first time North Korea has offered to destroy parts of Yongbyon, only to later reverse course. During prior negotiations in 2008, a cooling tower at the site was demolished, but North Korea’s nuclear program continued.