THE two Koreas have agreed to rid their peninsula of nuclear weapons after historic talks between the two leaders.
A joint statement issued by Kim Jong Un and Moon Jae-in after the summit said the two had confirmed their goal of achieving “a nuclear-free Korean peninsula through complete denuclearisation”.
The pair did not provide any specific new measures or forge a potential breakthrough on the pledge, but the summit will be remembered for the sight of two men from nations with a deep and bitter rivalry holding each other’s hands and grinning from ear to ear.
Standing at a podium next to Mr Moon after the talks ended, Mr Kim faced a wall of cameras beaming his image live to the world and declared that the Koreas are “linked by blood as a family and compatriots who cannot live separately”.
Mr Kim’s single step across the cracked, weathered concrete marking the Koreas’ border made him the first ruler of North Korea to step on South Korean soil since the war.
The latest declaration between the Koreas, Mr Kim said, should not repeat the “unfortunate history of past inter-Korean agreements that only reached the starting line” before becoming derailed.
President Donald Trump marked the occasion by tweeting: “KOREAN WAR TO END!”
Both Koreas agreed to jointly push for talks this year with Washington, and also potentially China, to officially end the Korean War, which finished with an armistice that never ended the war.
Many will judge the summit based on the weak language on nuclear weapons. Pyongyang’s nuclear and missile tests last year likely put it on the threshold of becoming a legitimate nuclear power.
The North, which has spent decades building its bombs despite crippling sanctions and near-constant international condemnation, claims it has already risen to that level.
South Korean conservative politicians criticised the joint statement as letting North Korea off the hook by failing to secure a clear commitment on nuclear disarmament.
But the Koreas made inroads on a raft of other points of friction. Mr Moon agreed to visit the North Korean capital some time in the autumn, and both leaders said they would meet on a regular basis and exchange calls on a recently established hotline.
They agreed to settle a disagreement over their western maritime border by designating it as a peace area and securing fishing activities for both countries.
They said they would open a permanent communication office in the North Korean border town of Kaesong and resume temporary reunions of relatives separated by the 1950-53 war.
“I feel like I’m firing a flare at the starting line in the moment of (the two Koreas) writing a new history in North-South relations, peace and prosperity,” Mr Kim told Mr Moon as they sat at a table built so that exactly 2018mm separated them.
Mr Moon responded that there were high expectations that they produce an agreement that will be a “big gift to the entire Korean nation and every peace-loving person in the world”.
Mr Kim acknowledged widespread scepticism over their summit: “We have reached big agreements before but were unable to fulfil them. There are sceptical views on whether the meeting today will yield meaningful results.
“If we maintain a firm will and proceed forward hand in hand, it will be impossible at least for things to get worse than they are now.”
Mr Kim joked that he would make sure not to interrupt Mr Moon’s sleep any more, a reference to the North’s drumbeat of early-morning missile tests last year.
The North Korean leader also referred to a South Korean island the North attacked with artillery in 2010, killing four, saying the residents of Yeonpyeong Island have high hopes the summit will help heal past scars.
Mr Kim said he would visit Seoul’s presidential Blue House if invited.
The historic greeting of the two leaders was planned to the last detail.
They smiled broadly and shook hands with the border line between them. Mr Moon then invited Mr Kim to cross into the South, and said: “You have crossed into the South, but when do I get to go across?”
Mr Kim replied: “Why don’t we go across now?”, then grasped Mr Moon’s hand and led him into the North and then back into the South.
Mr Moon then led Mr Kim along a red carpet into South Korean territory, where schoolchildren greeted the leaders and gave Mr Kim flowers.
An honour guard stood at attention for inspection and a military band played traditional Korean folk songs beloved by both Koreas.