By Kim Yoo-chul
North Korea has agreed to provide key information to the United States about its nuclear warheads and secret test sites, sources said Tuesday.
"North Korea plans to hand over a list of its secret nuclear test sites as well as information about its nuclear warheads to U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo when he visits Pyongyang this month," one source told The Korea Times.
He said chances are high that North Korean leader Kim Jong-un will meet Pompeo in person to discuss details about how and when the North will abandon its nuclear weapons. During his previous visit to Pyongyang, Pompeo said his team was hoping that "we can make a big step here before too long."
"Washington was demanding Pyongyang hand over a list of all things relating to its nuclear capabilities. It's uncertain whether the North accepted this request; but submitting a list of nuclear capabilities including sites will push forward the nuclear disarmament talks which have been stalled," said another source asking for anonymity.
Earlier, the North apparently dismantled a ballistic missiles test site, a move seen by many as a gesture towards fulfilling the June agreement in which Kim directly mentioned denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula. But the United States consistently said the measure wasn't good enough and demanded additional measures.
A senior Cheong Wa Dae official said Seoul was hoping the latest moves by North Korea and the U.S. will build confidence between the two and help the once-hostile relationship move forward.
Pompeo's visit to the North comes after efforts to completely end the North's nuclear programs, agreed to by Kim and President Donald Trump at their historic June 12 summit in Singapore, appeared to have slowed.
At the Singapore summit, Kim made a broad and vague commitment to "work toward denuclearization." But he offered no details about how the North might go about this.
The sources said it remains to be seen whether Pompeo will fix a date or at least a timeline for a declaration to end the Korean War, including the signing of a peace treaty, while visiting the North.
The North's state-run news media and propaganda websites have recently issued statements indicating that declaring an end to the Korean War was Pyongyang's latest negotiating goal.
"The North wants to keep the momentum alive and the United States is hoping to see tangible progress in its efforts to achieve something significant such as peace on the Korean Peninsula," said Moon Sung-mook, a senior researcher at the Korea Research Institute for National Strategy in Seoul.
"If the North provides a list of its nuclear capabilities including sites, then President Moon Jae-in may ask Washington to ease economic sanctions on the North, a plus factor to expand inter-Korean economic cooperation," he said.
Early Tuesday (KST), President Trump hinted at a second summit with Kim while defending his efforts to convince Pyongyang to completely end its nuclear weapons programs.
In an interview with Reuters News Agency, Trump said; "a lot of good things are happening." He believed North Korea had taken "specific steps" toward denuclearization, despite widespread doubts about Kim's willingness to abandon his arsenal.
In a related note, the Cheong Wa Dae official said an official announcement on the resumption of operations at the joint industrial complex in Gaeseong, North Korea, will be made "soon," adding the government doesn't believe the operation of the complex is a violation of U.N. Security Council sanctions on the North.