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Kim to close nuke test site, unify time zone

SEOUL, South Korea (AP/AFP) – North Korean leader Kim Jong Un has vowed to shut down the country’s nuclear test site in May and open the process to experts and journalists from South Korea and the United States, Seoul’s presidential office said yesterday.

The event may serve as a dramatic setup to Kim’s crucial nuclear negotiations with US President Donald Trump that may take place in the next few weeks amid widespread skepticism on whether or not the North will ever fully surrender its nuclear weapons.

Kim made the comments during his summit with South Korean President Moon Jae-in last Friday in a border truce village, where he also expressed optimism about his meeting with Trump, saying the US President will learn he’s “not a person” to fire missiles toward the United States, Moon’s spokesman Yoon Young-chan said.

Moon and Kim during the summit promised to work toward the “complete denuclearization” of the Korean Peninsula, but made no references to verification or timetables. Seoul had also shuttled between Pyongyang and Washington to set up a potential meeting between Kim and Trump, which is expected next month or early June.

“Once we start talking, the United States will know that I am not a person to launch nuclear weapons at South Korea, the Pacific, or the United States,” Yoon quoted Kim as saying.

“If we maintain frequent meetings and build trust with the United States and receive promises for an end to the war and a non-aggression treaty, then why would we need to live in difficulty by keeping our nuclear weapons?” Yoon quoted Kim as saying.

Meanwhile, Kim said he would move the country’s clocks 30 minutes forward to unify with the South’s time zone as a conciliatory gesture after the summit, Seoul said yesterday.

The two countries on the divided peninsula have had different time zones since 2015 when the North suddenly changed its standard time to 30 minutes behind the South. Pyongyang cited a nationalistic rationale, saying it would return the North to the time zone used before Japan’s 1910-45 colonial rule of the peninsula to mark the 70th anniversary of its liberation from Tokyo.

But Kim promised to change the time zone back during the historic summit with Moon, Moon’s spokesman said. Kim said he found it ”heartbreaking” to see the two wall clocks hanging at the summit room showing different times for the two neighbors, Yoon said.

”Since we were the ones who made the change from the standard time, we will go back to the original time. You can announce it publicly,” Yoon quoted Kim as saying. Yoon hailed the move as a ”symbolic move” for better ties between Seoul and Pyongyang.

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