[UPDATE - Friday, April 27, 5.45pm] The two Koreas have agreed to rid their peninsula of nuclear weapons but failed to provide any new specific measures how to achieve that. A joint statement issued after their leaders’ talks Friday says the two Koreas confirmed their goal of achieving “a nuclear-free Korean Peninsula through complete denuclearisation.”
North and South Korea have also said they will jointly push for talks with the United State and also potentially China to officially end the 1950-53 Korean War, which stopped in an ceasefire and left the Koreas still technically at war.
Smiling and holding hands, North Korean leader Kim Jong-un and South Korean President Moon Jae-in met at the heavily fortified demilitarised zone between the countries on Friday in the first summit for the two Koreas in over a decade.
Scenes of Moon and Kim joking and walking together marked a striking contrast to last year’s many North Korean missile tests and its largest ever nuclear test that led to broad international sanctions and fears of a fresh conflict on the Korean peninsula.
The dramatic meeting, aimed at ending their decades-long conflict, comes weeks before Kim is due to meet US President Donald Trump.
“We are at a starting line today, where a new history of peace, prosperity and inter-Korean relations is being written,” Kim said before the two Korean leaders and their top aides began talks.
Moon and Kim are expected to discuss denuclearisation and exchanges between the Koreas. Just days before the summit, Kim said North Korea would suspend nuclear and long-range missile tests and take apart its only known nuclear test site.
But there is widespread scepticism about whether Kim is ready to abandon the hard-earned nuclear arsenal his country has defended and developed for decades as what it says is a necessary deterrent against US invasion.
Two earlier summits between the leaders of North and South Korea, in Pyongyang in 2000 and 2007, failed to stop the North’s weapons programmes or improve relations in a lasting way.
Moon greeted Kim at the military demarcation line, making Kim the first North Korean leader to set foot in the South since the 1950-53 Korean War.
In an unplanned move, Kim invited Moon to step briefly across into North Korea, before the two leaders crossed back into South Korea holding hands.
The two were handed flowers by a South Korean children, residents of a village situated in the demilitarised zone.
The pair were met on a red carpet by a South Korean honour guard in historical costumes and playing traditional music.
“I hope we will be able to talk frankly and come to an agreement to give a big present for the Koreans and the people around the world who wish for peace,” Moon said as the two began their official talks.
Minutes before Kim entered Peace House, a North Korean security team conducted a sweep for explosives and listening devices, and sprayed apparent disinfectant in the air, on the chairs, and on the guest book.
The United States is hopeful talks between Kim and Moon will make progress on achieving peace and prosperity, the White House said in a statement as the two men began their summit.
The two countries expect to release a joint statement late on Friday - possibly called the Panmunjom Declaration - that could address denuclearisation and peace, and an improvement in relations, South Korean officials said.
North Korea and South Korea are technically still at war because the Korean War ended in a truce, not a peace treaty.
Edited by Jamie Lam
Footage via Associated Press