The leaders of North and South Korea have agreed to work to remove all nuclear weapons from the Korean Peninsula and, within the year, pursue talks with the United States to declare an official end to the Korean War, which ravaged the peninsula from 1950 to 1953. At a historic summit meeting, the first time a North Korean leader had ever set foot in the South, the leaders vowed to negotiate a treaty to replace a truce that has kept an uneasy peace on the divided Korean Peninsula for more than six decades, while ridding it of nuclear weapons. A peace treaty has been one of the incentives North Korea has demanded in return for dismantling its nuclear programme.
The leaders of North and South Korea pledged on Friday to work towards a “common goal” of denuclearizing their peninsula and formally ending the Korean War by the end of this year, following a historic day of talks on the border that divided them for almost seven decades.
North Korean leader Kim Jong-un and South Korean President Moon Jae- in a joint declaration said that “there will be no more war on the Korean Peninsula and thus a new era of peace has begun”.
The agreement was signed and issued after their bilateral summit earlier in the day at the truce border village of Panmunjom, inside the heavily-fortified Demilitarized Zone, Yonhap news agency reported.
The US, Russia, China and Japan hailed the historic meeting and the commitments to peace signed by the North and South Korean leaders.
The one-day summit started on an upbeat note with the leaders outlining efforts to make “good progress”.
“I cannot stop my excitement as we meet here at such a historical place. Also, it is very moving that you have come to Panmunjom to greet me,” Kim told Moon shortly after the walking over the Military Demarcation Line (MDL) to the South Korean side of Panmunjom.
Kim invited the South Korean President to step briefly across the demarcation line into North Korea, before the pair stepped back into South Korea — all the while holding hands. They planted a pine tree on the demarcation line in the demilitarized zone as a symbol of peace and prosperity.
Kim became the first North Korean leader to have stepped on South Korean soil since the end of the 1950-53 Korean War. The Moon-Kim meeting was the third inter-Korean summit but the first to be held in South Korea.
South and North Korea agreed to completely cease all hostile acts against each other in every domain, including land, air and sea. Both the leaders also agreed to push for disarmament “in a phased manner”.
Efforts to reduce military tension will include formally ending the Korean War by replacing the armistice with a peace treaty.
The North Korean leader is already set to hold a bilateral summit with US President Donald Trump, who earlier said the first-ever US-North Korea summit will likely take place in May or early June.
Moon and Kim also reached an agreement on a wide range of steps aimed at promoting peace between the divided Koreas and their people. A Red Cross dialogue will be held to discuss a resumption of reunions between families separated by the countries’ division.
The countries will also set up a new, joint liaison office in the North’s border town of Kaesong.
Moon and Kim met again later at a welcome dinner hosted by the former. They were joined by their wives and 60 other officials and people from both countries.
Kim’s wife, Ri Sol-ju, and Moon’s wife, Kim Jung-sook, also held a brief meeting before the start of the dinner at Panmunjom.
US President Donald Trump praised the agreements and tweeted: “KOREAN WAR TO END! The US… should be very proud of what is now taking place in Korea!”
But he also struck a note of caution. “Good things are happening, but only time will tell!”
The Kremlin welcomed the Koreas meeting and said it “positively regarded the results of the held negotiations”.
China called the summit “a historic occasion” and expressed hopes that it would create a new opportunity for stability on the Korean peninsula.
Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe also praised the meeting, although he said he would continue to monitor the progress of the apparent rapprochement between Seoul and Pyongyang.
The two Koreas had earlier agreed to denuclearise their countries and establish permanent peace on the Korean Peninsula in their two previous summits held in 2000 and 2007.
The talks began at 10.15 a.m., about 45 minutes after Kim crossed the MDL, becoming the first North Korean leader to do so since the end of the 1950-53 Korean War.
“It is good to see you,” Kim said to Moon, waiting just south of the MDL for their first-ever encounter that was quickly followed by a handshake.
“I cannot stop my excitement as we meet here at such a historical place. Also, it is very moving that you, Mr. President, have come to Panmunjom, the demarcation line, to greet me,” the North Korean leader said.
Kim surprised many by inviting Moon to briefly cross the inter-Korean border to the North Korean side, which South Korean officials said was not pre-arranged.
Moon expressed his gratitude to Kim for agreeing to hold the summit.
“The moment Chairman Kim crossed the Military Demarcation Line, Panmunjom became a symbol of peace, not a symbol of division. I wish to again express my respect to Chairman Kim Jong-un’s decision that made today’s discussions possible,” the President said
The summit came amid thawing ties this year that followed heightening tensions between the Koreas, Yonhap News Agency reported.
Pyongyang staged nearly a dozen missile tests since Moon took office in May 2017, while also conducting its sixth and most powerful nuclear test in September.
The leaders’ talks ended shortly before noon. Kim returned to his country in a black limousine that crossed the inter-Korean border while surrounded by nearly a dozen North Korean guards.
He will cross the inter-Korean border again later in the day for various events that will include a friendship walk with Moon.
Moon will host a welcoming dinner later in the day for Kim and possibly his wife, Ri Sol-ju. (IANS)