North and South Korea leaders aim for ‘complete denuclearisation’

Kim Jong-un and Moon Jae-in pledge formal end to Korean War and peace on peninsula

Kim Jong-un has become the first North Korean leader to enter South Korea, stepping across the military line to shake hands with South Korean president Moon Jae-in, before the two walked briefly back across the border in a surprise move.

 

North Korean leader Kim Jong-un and South Korean president Moon Jae-in signed a landmark peace agreement and embraced each other on Friday to end a remarkable day of hope and possibility on the Korean peninsula.

Mr Moon and Mr Kim signed a joint declaration in the border village of Panmunjom, close to the demilitarised zone dividing the Korean peninsula, and hailed the progress they had made in their bid to repair ties between the bitter rivals.

“We solemnly declare before the 80 million people of our nation and the entire world that there will not be any more war on the Korean peninsula. Today we begin a new era of peace,” Mr Moon said after the ceremony.

The meeting marked the culmination of a diplomatic process that began with Mr Kim reaching out to his counterpart in the South ahead of the Winter Olympics. It led to the North’s participation in the games under a unified flag and a joint women’s hockey team.

“The South and the North confirmed their joint goal of realising a Korean peninsula free of nuclear weapons through complete denuclearisation,” Mr Moon told reporters.

Kim Jong-un, North Korea’s leader and Moon Jae-in, South Korea’s president, hold hands as they cross the Military Demarcation Line to the southern side of the border at the village of Panmunjom. Photograph: Inter-Korean Summit Press Corps/Pool via Bloomberg
Kim Jong-un, North Korea’s leader and Moon Jae-in, South Korea’s president, hold hands as they cross the Military Demarcation Line to the southern side of the border at the village of Panmunjom. Photograph: Inter-Korean Summit Press Corps/Pool via Bloomberg

At an evening concert following the summit, Mr Moon and Mr Kim held hands and watched an emotionally charged montage of their various activities over the course of the day, from crossing the border to planting a symbolic pine tree, all to the tune of a song with the lyrics “be a family again”.

“Let’s meet more often, and let’s not go back to the starting point. Let’s make a better world together,” said Mr Kim.

The two Koreas announced they would work with the US and China this year to declare an official end to the 1950s Korean War and seek an agreement to establish “permanent” and “solid” peace.

Humorous side

Mr Kim showed a humorous side when he apologised to Mr Moon for disturbing his sleep with his regular missile tests. The South Korean leader was forced to hold early morning UN Security Council meetings to discuss the tests last year.

Last year it staged its sixth and by far most powerful nuclear blast and also launched missiles that it claims bring the US mainland into range of its warheads.

“We won’t interrupt your early morning sleep anymore,” said Mr Kim, restating his pledge to forego future tests.

While the agreement is low on detail, it sets a positive tone for talks between Mr Kim and Donald Trump, scheduled for May or June.

The US president launched a brace of tweets to celebrate the agreement, and they were a long way from his “little Rocketman” insults of a few months ago.

“KOREAN WAR TO END! The United States, and all of its GREAT people, should be very proud of what is now taking place in Korea!” he wrote.

“Good things are happening, but only time will tell!” added Mr Trump, whom the North Koreans had referred to as a “mentally deranged dotard”.

In a later statement, Mr Trump said he hoped that both sides “can some day live in harmony, prosperity and peace”.

“It looks like it could happen,” he added. “When I began, people were saying that was an impossibility. They said there were two alternatives: Let them have what they have or go to war. And now we have a much better alternative than anybody thought even possible.”

Six-party talks

Japan, Russia and China also welcomed the agreement, and there is the prospect of a renewed round of six-party talks bringing all the countries involved around a table.

The spouses of Mr Moon and Mr Kim – Kim Jung-sook and Ri Sol-ju, respectively – attended the banquet after the summit meetings, as well as the concert. Also in close attendance was Mr Kim’s sister and close adviser Kim Yo-jong, who took notes.

North Korea’s leader Kim Jong-un waves in a car as he leaves for the North after a closing ceremony at the end of the historic summit with South Korea’s President in Panmunjom. Photograph: Korea Summit Press Pool/AFP/Getty Images
North Korea’s leader Kim Jong-un waves in a car as he leaves for the North after a closing ceremony at the end of the historic summit with South Korea’s President in Panmunjom. Photograph: Korea Summit Press Pool/AFP/Getty Images

Earlier, Mr Kim made history as the first North Korean leader to enter South Korea, stepping across the military line dividing the peninsula to warmly shake hands with Mr Moon.

It is the third inter-Korean summit since 1953, with both of the previous meetings ending in deals that were subsequently scrapped. It was the first summit to take place in South Korea and also the first since the North made huge progress in its nuclear weapons programmes.

The two sides will also aim to establish joint liaison offices to facilitate more cooperation. A big issue for Koreans on both sides will be reuniting the hundreds of thousands of families separated by the war.

While thousands have already been reunited, there is pressure to speed up the process as many of those wishing to see their long-lost relatives are now elderly.

After the day’s events, Mr Kim and his entourage drove back across the border in a black Mercedes, accompanied by an escort of jogging security officers.