Thursday, April 26, 2018

Leaders of North, South Korea Meet at Historic Summit
Thu Apr 26, 2018 11:56PM

South Korean President Moon Jae-in and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un attend the inter-Korean summit at the truce village of Panmunjom, in this still frame taken from video, South Korea April 27, 2018. Also at the meeting are South Korea's National Intelligence Service chief Suh Hoon (L), Blue House Chief of Staff Im Jong-seok (3rd L), North Korean leader Kim Jong Un's sister Kim Yo Jong (R) and North Korean Foreign Minister Ri Yong Ho (3rd R). (Photo by Reuters)

North Korean leader Kim Jong-un and South Korean President Moon have held their historic summit at the border village of Panmunjom in the Demilitarized Zone.

During the Friday summit, the first between the two Koreas' leader in more than a decade, Kim was accompanied by his sister and confidante, Kim Yo-jong, and the 90-year-old nominal head of the North Korean state, Kim Yong-nam.

During the meeting, the South Korean president expressed hope for achievement of a "bold agreement."

"I hope we engage in frank talks and reach a bold agreement so that we may give a big gift to the whole Korean people and the people who want peace," Moon said.

According to South Korean officials, the two countries are expected to release a joint statement late on Friday, possibly called the Panmunjom Declaration, which could elaborate on issues, including denuclearization, peace, and promotion of bilateral ties. Before the summit, Kim stopped to sign a guest book in South Korea's Peace House.

"A new history starts now. An age of peace, from the starting point of history," Kim wrote in the book in Korean.

Earlier, in their first encounter at the demarcation line, the north Korean leader invited the South president to step briefly across the demarcation line into North Korea, and then the two leaders entered South Korea.

Later, the South Korean president officially welcomed Kim into the South as the two heads of states were smiling and holding hands.

Walking on a red carpet, Kim and moon were met by a South Korean honor guard as traditional music was played.

Panmunjom, the world's last Cold War frontier, was designated as the venue of meeting for officials from the North and South after the Korean war ended in a truce in 1953.

Neither North nor South Korea have jurisdiction over Panmunjom and the UN Command administers the village which sits inside the heavily mined four-kilometer Demilitarized Zone (DMZ) that serves as the de facto border between the two Koreas.

The planned meeting will bring the South Korean president Moon and the North Korean leader together, with Kim crossing a military demarcation line to the South for the first time and becoming the first North Korean leader to set foot in the South since the Korean War ended 65 years ago.

South Korean sources said official dialog between Kim and Moon would begin at 0130 GMT at the Peace House in Pan-mun-jom in Panmunjom, an hour after the North Korean leader is scheduled to cross the border at 0030 GMT.

The North’s military nuclear and missile programs will be high on the agenda. But it is unlikely that the meeting will produce any outcome beyond a thaw in the relations, which had been tense until January this year.

According to North Korea's official KCNA news agency, Kim will "open-heartedly discuss... all the issues arising in improving inter-Korean relations and achieving peace, prosperity and reunification of the Korean peninsula."

After the end of the first session of the talks, the two leaders will have lunch separately and then hold a tree-planting ceremony in the afternoon, according to the South’s presidential chief of staff.

Im Jong-seok, the South’s presidential chief of staff, said a pine tree would be planted on the demarcation line to symbolize “peace and prosperity,” with the use of soil from Mount Paektu in North Korea and Mount Halla in South Korea.

Kim and Moon will sign an agreement and issue a joint statement at the end of talks, according to Im.

The North Korean leader said last week that he was ready to suspend the country’s nuclear and missile tests and close a nuclear test site as North Korea has already achieved adequate progress in the nuclear and missile programs.

North Korea says its weapons are defensive in nature and a necessary deterrent against potential hostility by the United States and its regional allies, including South Korea.

The two Koreas began mending fences in January, when Kim said he would be interested in talks being held between officials from the two countries. A series of overtures ensued.

A possible meeting between Kim and US President Donald Trump is also reportedly being planned for sometime in May or June.

However, Trump told Fox News by telephone on Thursday that it remained unclear whether he would meet with Kim.

"It could be that I walk out quickly - with respect - but ... it could be that maybe the meeting does not even take place," he said.

"Who knows. But I can tell you right now they want to meet." Meanwhile, the White House released two photos of a meeting between Kim and then Secretary of State-designate and CIA chief Mike Pompeo in North Korea over the Easter weekend.

This was Kim's first known meeting with a US official, during which they discussed the planned summit with Trump.

The diplomatic initiatives are part of efforts to reduce tensions surrounding North Korea’s nuclear and weapons program, which began after Pyongyang sent a delegation of its athletes to South Korea for the Winter Olympics earlier this year.

It then allowed representatives from South Korea to travel to the North and plan the summit between the leaders of the two countries.

Later, North Korea's leader announced the intention to hold talks with the US president. Washington and Pyongyang have no diplomatic relations.

The US has imposed many rounds of sanctions on North Korea, has substantial military presence near the country, and numerously threatened to invade it.

Tensions on the Korean Peninsula were running high in 2017. Trump’s threats last year prompted North Korea to carry out its most powerful nuclear test to date and launch intercontinental ballistic missiles capable of reaching the United States But Kim expressed sudden interest in the resolution of disagreements with the South on New Year’s Day, and a series of overtures began.

No comments: