North Korea to align with South's time zone as first practical step toward reconciliation

SEOUL, April 30 (Reuters) - North Korea will shift its time zone 30 minutes earlier to align with South Korea starting May 5 "as a first practical step for national reconciliation and unity," the North's state media said Monday.

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un said it was "a painful wrench" to see two clocks showing different Pyongyang and Seoul times on a wall at the summit venue during the historic meeting Friday with President Moon Jae-in, KCNA said.

Meanwhile, China will send the government's top diplomat, Wang Yi, to visit North Korea on Wednesday and Thursday this week, the foreign ministry said on Monday.

The time change report confirmed news from South Korean officials on Sunday that Kim pledged to scrap the northern time zone, which was created in 2015 to mark the 70th anniversary of Korea’s liberation from Japanese rule after World War Two.

South Korea and Japan are in the same time zone, nine hours ahead of Greenwich Mean Time.

"It is not an abstract meaning that the north and the south become one but it is just a process in which the north and the south turn their different and separated things into the same and single ones," Kim said, according to the dispatch.

At their summit Friday, Kim and Moon declared they would take steps to formally end the 1950-53 Korean War, which ended only with a truce, and work towards the "denuclearisation" of the Korean peninsula. The declaration didn't offer any specifics on what that meant or how it would progress.

Much now hinges on Kim's upcoming summit with U.S. President Donald Trump, who said the meeting could happen over the next three to four weeks. No location has been announced.

Kim also told Moon he would soon invite experts and journalists from the United States and South Korea when the country dismantles its Punggye-ri nuclear testing site, the Blue House said on Sunday.

North Korea has conducted all six of its nuclear tests at the site, a series of tunnels dug into the mountains in the northeastern part of the country. Some experts and researchers have speculated that the most recent - and by far largest - blast in September had rendered the entire site unusable.

But Kim said there were two additional, larger tunnels that remain "in very good condition" beyond the existing one, which experts believe may have collapsed.

U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said on Sunday he told Kim during their secret meeting at the beginning of April that North Korea would have to agree to take "irreversible" steps toward shutting its nuclear weapons program in any deal with the United States. (Reporting by Ju-min Park in SEOUL and Matthew Miller in BEIJING. Writing by Malcolm Foster. Editing by Lincoln Feast.)