North Korean leader Kim Jong-un inspects a KPA unit in this undated photo released by North Korea's Korean Central News Agency, in Pyongyang.. Picture: REUTERS
North Korean leader Kim Jong-un inspects a KPA unit in this undated photo released by North Korea's Korean Central News Agency, in Pyongyang.. Picture: REUTERS

Seoul — North Korea’s Kim Jong-un wants a second summit with US President Donald Trump soon to hasten denuclearisation, but a key goal is declaring an end to the 1950-1953 Korean war, the South’s President Moon Jae-in says.

Moon said he and Kim spent most of a three-day summit in Pyongyang this week discussing how to break an impasse and restart talks between Pyongyang and Washington, which are at odds over which should come first: denuclearisation or ending the war.

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

The joint statement from the summit stipulates his commitment to a "verifiable, irreversible dismantlement" of the nuclear programmes, and ending the war would be a first US reciprocal step, Moon said.

"Chairman Kim expressed his wish that he wanted to complete denuclearisation quickly and focus on economic development," Moon told a media conference in Seoul, shortly after returning from the summit with Kim in Pyongyang.

"He hoped a second summit with Trump would take place in the near future, in order to move the denuclearisation process along quickly."

Moon said that Kim was also open to inspection of a nuclear test site in the northwest town of Punggye-ri, which he called North Korea’s sole existing facility for underground detonations. While Pyongyang has stopped nuclear and missile tests in 2018, it failed to keep its pledge to allow international inspections of its dismantling of the Punggye-ri site in May, stirring criticism that the move could be reversed.

Representatives of the White House and the US state department did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

However, US secretary of state Mike Pompeo said on Wednesday he had invited the North’s foreign minister to meet in New York next week and other Pyongyang officials to Vienna for talks with nuclear envoy Stephen Biegun.

Kim pledged to work towards the "complete denuclearisation of the Korean peninsula" during two meetings with Moon and his encounter with Trump in Singapore, but follow-up negotiations on how to implement the vague commitments have since faltered.

Washington calls for concrete action, such as a full disclosure of North Korea’s nuclear and missile facilities, before satisfying Pyongyang’s key demands, including an official end to the war and the easing of international sanctions.

The war ended in an armistice, rather than a peace treaty, meaning US-led UN forces, including South Korea, are technically still at war with the North. But there have been concerns in South Korea and the US that ending the war would ultimately prompt China and Russia, if not North Korea, to demand that the UN Command, which overlaps with US forces in South Korea, be disbanded and leave.

Seoul aims to jointly announce with the US an end to the war, a measure Moon said he would discuss with Trump when they meet next week at the UN General Assembly in New York.

An end-of-war declaration would not affect the presence of US troops and the UN Command in the South, Moon said, adding that Kim shared his view. "It would be a political declaration that would mark a starting point for peace negotiations," Moon said.

"A peace treaty would be sealed, as well as normalisation of North Korea-US relations, after the North achieves complete denuclearisation," he said.

Reuters