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North Korea to Close Nuclear Test Site, Change Clocks to Match South

Kim Jong Un reportedly said that if trust can be built through diplomacy, "there's no reason for us to live a hard life with nuclear weapons."

Kim, Moon

Kim Jong Un and Moon Jae-in prepare to shake hands on Friday. (Photo: Korea Summit Press Pool/AFP/Getty Images)

North Korea is reportedly planning to shut down its main nuclear test site in May and reset its clocks to return to the South's time zone, following a historic meeting between Korean leaders on Friday.

A spokesperson for South Korean President Moon Jae-in, Yoon Young-chan, said Sunday that North Korean leader Kim Jong Un has agreed "to close the North's nuclear test site next month. To make the dismantling process transparent, he agreed to invite experts and journalists from [South] Korea and the U.S. to the North."

"We will not repeat the painful history that is the Korean War, and I assure you that military force will not be used under any circumstance," Kim said at Friday's summit, according to Yoon. Kim added: 

The U.S. is constitutionally averse to North Korea, but through dialogue, it will become apparent that we have no intention to target South Korea, the Pacific Ocean, or the U.S. with nuclear weapons. If we are able to build trust with the U.S. through frequent meetings, and promises to end war, and practice a policy of non-aggression, there's no reason for us to live a hard life with nuclear weapons.

The announcement comes as the South is helping to arrange a potential meeting between Kim and U.S. President Donald Trump, which is expected to take place in May or June.

"The closure of the nuclear test site would be a dramatic but likely symbolic event to set up Kim's summit with Trump," noted The Associated Press. "North Korea already announced this month that it has suspended all tests of nuclear devices and intercontinental ballistic missiles and plans to close its nuclear testing ground."

While Chinese researchers had published a report on Monday claiming that the Punggye-ri nuclear test site had collapsed and was beyond repair, U.S. intelligence officials told Reuters on Friday that the site "remains usable in spite of damage from a previous blast, and its closure could easily be reversed."

News of Kim's shutdown pledge was met with cautious optimism, and followed the release of the "Panmunjom Declaration," a document signed by both leaders on Friday, which states, "South and North Korea confirmed the common goal of realizing, through complete denuclearization, a nuclear-free Korean Peninsula." 

Yoon also said it was Kim who proposed the time zone change during the summit, stating, "The two different clocks for Seoul and Pyeongyang hanging in the Peace House broke his heart," so he said, "since it was us that switched from the standard time, we will reset our clocks."

"This is a good step," commented journalist Tim Shorrock, who often writes about U.S. foreign policy and East Asian politics.

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