North and South Korea leaders agree to work towards peace

Kim Jung-un and Moon Jae-in sign joint statement and embrace after historic talks

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 and South Korea have promised to work to rid the peninsula of nuclear weapons and to declare an official end to the Korean War this year, after landmark talks between leaders Kim Jong-un and Moon Jae-in.

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

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.

The two leaders embraced after they signed a joint declaration in the border village of Panmunjom, close to the demilitarised zone dividing the Korean peninsula.

“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 after the signing ceremony.

“There will not be any more war on the Korean peninsula. Today we begin a new era of peace,” he said.

Mr Moon paid tribute to the “bold and courageous” decisions of his North Korean counterpart and described the agreement as “a gift to the world”. He referred to Mr Kim by his official title as chairman of North Korea’s state affairs commission.

Wearing his signature Mao Zedong-style suit, Mr Kim said Koreans were “a people that should live together”.

“We will be able to enjoy peace and prosperity on the Korean peninsula without having to fear war. We will turn a new page ... and we want to settle a permanent peace,” said Mr Kim, who is the third generation of his family to rule North Korea.

North and South Korea remain technically at war since the Korean War ended in 1953 with an armistice rather than a peace treaty, while the North’s nuclear weapons programme has ratcheted up tensions in Asia and globally.

‘History starts now’

Earlier, the two leaders held hands as they crossed the military demarcation line and after lunch they held an intense, one-on-one conversation that lasted nearly half an hour.

The demilitarised zone would be “transformed into a peace zone”, the leaders pledged.

Earlier, Mr Kim inscribed the visitors’ book with the message: “New history starts now; age of peace, from the starting point of history.”

The meeting is the third inter-Korean summit, following two previous meetings in 2000 and 2007, and it is the first to take place in South Korea. It comes after months of easing tensions between the two Koreas.

The two sides will now establish joint liaison offices to facilitate more co-operation.

The two men had greeted each other warmly after Mr Kim’s arrival for the summit. In a surprise move, they walked briefly back across the border, enabling Mr Moon to set foot in North Korea.

Mr Kim appeared bemused by the large number of photographers on the southern side but his debut in South Korea was brisk and confident.

“I am happy to meet you,” he said shortly before sitting down with Mr Moon for talks.

“I say this before president Moon and many journalists here that I will hold good discussions with president Moon with a frank, sincere and honest attitude and make a good outcome,” said Mr Kim.

The two men were then escorted by an honour guard clad in brightly coloured traditional costumes to the meeting venue.

As they sat at a table for the start of the summit, Mr Kim said he wondered why it had taken so long for talks to take place. He also said he had brought naengmyeon, a Pyongyang cold noodle dish, for them to enjoy at dinner.

Third summit

The location of the meeting, Panmunjom, is 50km north of Seoul, and is home to a peace centre as well as a military barracks.

“The moment chairman Kim crosses the military demarcation line, Panmunjom became a symbol of peace, not a symbol of division,” Mr Moon said. “I wish to again express my respect to chairman Kim Jong-un’s decision that made today’s discussions possible.”

The meeting is the third inter-Korean summit, following two previous meetings in 2000 and 2007, and it is the first to take place in South Korea. It comes after months of easing tensions between the two Koreas and is expected to lay the groundwork for a meeting with US president Donald Trump in May or June.