North Korea is pledging to give up its nuclear weapons if the U.S. commits to a peace deal, South Korea said Sunday, even as Canada announced it has sent a reconnaissance aircraft and personnel to help enforce sanctions against the North.
North Korean leader Kim Jong-un told his South Korean counterpart at a summit on Friday that that he would disarm if the U.S. pledges not to attack it and agrees to a formal peace treaty, Seoul officials said Sunday.
Mr. Kim also vowed during his meeting with South Korean President Moon Jae-in to allow experts from the United States and South Korea to verify his country’s shutdown of its nuclear test site in May, Mr. Moon’s office said.
However, the Trump administration reacted cautiously to North Korea’s promises, with National Security Adviser John Bolton saying Washington wants to verify that North Korea is taking concrete action before it eases sanctions.
In a statement released Sunday, Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland and Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan said North Korea must “completely, verifiably and irreversibly” abandon its nuclear weapons and ballistic missile programs.
The ministers announced the deployment of a CP-140 Aurora, a long-range reconnaissance aircraft, as well as 40 Canadian Forces personnel, to assist in maritime surveillance to prevent ship-to-ship smuggling designed to evade the sanctions on North Korea imposed by the United Nations Security Council.
“Canada is committed to peace and security on the Korean Peninsula and believes that a diplomatic solution to the North Korea crisis is essential and possible,” the ministers said in the statement. “We welcome recent statements by North Korea announcing a reported suspension of nuclear tests and intercontinental ballistic missile launches.”
Canada will participate with the United States and Britain to continue enforcement of UN Security Council sanctions in order to exert continued pressure on Pyongyang.
While there remain questions about whether North Korea will relinquish its nukes as it heads into negotiations with the United States, Mr. Kim’s promises amount to the North’s most specific acknowledgment yet that “denuclearization” would constitute surrendering its weapons.
Mr. Bolton reacted coolly to word that North Korea would abandon his weapons if the United States pledged not to attack.
Asked on CBS’s Face the Nation whether the U.S. would make such a promise, Mr. Bolton said: “Well, we’ve heard this before. … The North Korean propaganda playbook is an infinitely rich resource.
“What we want to see from them is evidence that it’s real and not just rhetoric,” he added.
During their summit at a truce village on the border, the two Korean leaders promised to work toward the “complete denuclearization” of the Korean Peninsula but made no references to verification or timetables.
Mr. Kim also expressed optimism about his planned meeting with U.S. President Donald Trump, Mr. Moon’s spokesman Yoon Young-chan said.
“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,” Mr. Kim said, according to Mr. Yoon.
Some analysts have criticized Mr. Moon’s agreement with Mr. Kim at the summit as a disappointment, citing the lack of references to verification and timeframes and also the absence of a definition on what would constitute a “complete” denuclearization of the peninsula.
The North Korean overtures may be just “a lull in the storm,” said Don Baker, Asian studies professor at the University of British Columbia. He noted South Korean presidents have travelled to the North in the past to talk peace with little result, while the United States and North Korea have signed agreements aimed at easing tensions three times in the past 25 years, only to see Pyongyang continue its weapons program.
He applauded Canada’s move to send a reconnaissance aircraft to help enforce sanction.
“Canada should do its part as a member of the UN to enforce UN-imposed sanctions,” Dr. Baker said in an e-mail. “After all if North Korea does develop the ability to send ICBMs across the Pacific Ocean, Canada would be in danger as well.”
But Patrick McEachern, a former State Department analyst now with the Washington-based Wilson Center, said it was still meaningful that Mr. Moon extracted a commitment from Mr. Kim to complete denuclearization, which marked a significant change from North Korea’s previous public demand to expand its arsenal of nuclear weapons in number and quality.
With a report from Associated Press