The leaders of North and South Korea yesterday agreed to pursue a permanent peace deal and the complete denuclearization of the divided peninsula, as they embraced after a historic summit laden with symbolism.
In a day of bonhomie including a highly symbolic handshake over the Military Demarcation Line that divides the two countries, the pair issued a declaration on “the common goal of realizing, through complete denuclearization, a nuclear-free Korean Peninsula.”
Upon signing the document, North Korean leader Kim Jong-un and South Korean President Moon Jae-in shared a warm embrace, the culmination of a summit filled with smiles and displays of friendship in front of the world media.
Photo: Reuters / Korea Summit Press Pool
They also agreed that they would this year seek a permanent end to the Korean War, 65 years after hostilities ended in an armistice rather than a peace treaty.
Moon is to visit Pyongyang in “the fall,” the two leaders said, also agreeing to hold “regular meetings and direct telephone conversations.”
The so-called Panmunjom Declaration capped an extraordinary day unthinkable only months ago, when the nuclear-armed North carried out a series of missile launches and its sixth atomic test.
Kim said he was “filled with emotion” after stepping over the concrete blocks into the South, making him the first North Korean leader to set foot there since the shooting stopped in the Korean War.
At Kim’s impromptu invitation, the two men briefly crossed hand-in-hand into the North before walking to the Inter-Korean Peace House on the southern side of the truce village of Panmunjom for the summit — only the third of its kind since hostilities ceased in 1953.
“I came here determined to send a starting signal at the threshold of a new history,” Kim said.
After the summit, he pledged that the two Koreas would ensure they did not “repeat the unfortunate history in which past inter-Korea agreements ... fizzled out after beginning.”
The two previous Korean summits in 2000 and 2007, both in Pyongyang, also ended with displays of affection and similar pledges, but the agreements ultimately came to naught.
With the North’s atomic arsenal high on the agenda, Moon said that the North’s announced moratorium on nuclear testing and long-range missile launches was “very significant.”
It was the highest-level encounter yet in a whirlwind of nuclear diplomacy, and was intended to pave the way for a much-anticipated encounter between Kim and US President Donald Trump.
Last year, Pyongyang carried out its sixth nuclear test, by far its most powerful to date, and launched missiles capable of reaching the US mainland.
Its actions sent tensions soaring as Kim and Trump traded personal insults and threats of war.
Moon seized on the South’s Winter Olympics as an opportunity to broker dialogue between them, and has said his meeting with Kim would serve to set up the summit between Pyongyang and Washington.
Trump praised the meeting, acknowledging the historic summit even as he raised questions about how long the positive diplomacy would last.
In a pair of tweets, Trump appeared optimistic that a summit would be fruitful as he eyed his own meeting with Kim.
“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!” Trump said on Twitter. “Good things are happening, but only time will tell!”
The US president has said he hopes to meet with Kim next month or in June, and a White House official has said Trump might seek to meet with Moon beforehand.
Trump has demanded that the North give up its weapons, and Washington is pressing for it to do so in a complete, verifiable and irreversible way.
Seoul had played down expectations before the summit, saying that the North’s advances in its nuclear and missile programs made the summit “all the more difficult.”
Pyongyang has demanded as yet unspecified security guarantees to discuss its arsenal.
Moon said he hoped they would have further meetings on both sides of the border, while Kim offered to visit Seoul “any time” he was invited.
After a morning session lasting 1 hour, 40 minutes, Kim crossed back to the North for lunch, with a dozen security guards jogging alongside his limousine.
Before the afternoon session, Moon and Kim held a symbolic tree-planting ceremony on the demarcation line.
The soil came from Mount Paektu, on the North’s border with China, and Mount Halla, on the South’s southern island of Jeju.
After signing the agreement, the leaders and their wives attended a banquet before Kim was to return to the North.
President Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) yesterday expressed hope that the historic meeting would be a step toward more stable regional development.
Asked by the media whether she would be open to a meeting with Chinese President Xi Jinping (習近平), Tsai said she is willing to do what it takes to secure peace and stability across the Taiwan Strait.
As long as there are no political prerequisites, no president of Taiwan would turn down such a meeting, she added.
Additional reporting by CNA and Reuters
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