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Pyongyang plans formal nod to denuclearization, Seoul says

[SEOUL] Kim Jong Un, North Korea's leader, plans to formally announce his willingness to denuclearize his country when he meets with President Moon Jae-in of South Korea this month, an official from the South said Tuesday.

The statement is expected to be part of a joint declaration that the two leaders will adopt when they meet on April 27, said Moon's chief of staff, Im Jong-seok. Negotiators from both Koreas have agreed on a rough framework for the joint declaration, he said.

They are still discussing other aspects of the joint statement, such as whether the two Koreas would commit to holding summit meetings on a regular basis, Mr Im said. South Korea is also trying to convince North Korea that Mr Moon and Mr Kim should hold a joint news conference at the end of their meeting in Panmunjom, the so-called truce village on the inter-Korean border.

If necessary, Mr Moon's national security adviser, Chung Eui-yong, and his spy chief, Suh Hoon, will visit the North Korean capital, Pyongyang, again to resolve any significant issues before the summit meeting, Mr Im said.

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When Mr Chung and Mr Suh visited Mr Kim last month as Mr Moon's special envoys, Mr Kim told them he would be willing to discuss giving up nuclear weapons if his government no longer felt threatened militarily and its security was guaranteed.

"Although the special envoys have already confirmed a willingness to denuclearize, it will make a difference if the two heads of state will meet and more clearly confirm it and make it a formal statement," Mr Im told reporters Tuesday.

More talks are needed to determine how specific the declaration would be about denuclearization, said Im, who is in charge of South Korean officials preparing for the summit meeting. But he said the joint statement would be broad and fairly "abstract," because any substantial deal on the North's nuclear weapons must be struck between Mr Kim and President Donald Trump.

Mr Trump has said he plans to meet with Mr Kim in May or early June to try to persuade him to dismantle his nuclear weapons program.

"When our special envoys visited Pyongyang, the mood was not bad, and we understand that the North Koreans and the Americans are both engaged in sincere discussions, so we are optimistic about the inter-Korean summit," Mr Im said. "But we could face obstacles any time."