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North Korea says 'historic meeting' with the South opens 'new era for peace'

Tweeting today, Trump said he had had a “very good talk” with South Korea president Moon Jae-in.

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, left, shakes hands with South Korean President Moon Jae-in over the military demarcation line at the border village of Panmunjom in Demilitarized Zone.
North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, left, shakes hands with South Korean President Moon Jae-in over the military demarcation line at the border village of Panmunjom in Demilitarized Zone.
Image: Korea Summit Press Pool via AP, File

NORTH KOREA HAS described its summit with the South as a “historic meeting” that paved the way for the start of a new era, after the two leaders pledged to pursue denuclearisation and a permanent peace.

The official KCNA news agency carried the text of the leaders’ Panmunjom Declaration in full and said the encounter opened the way “for national reconciliation and unity, peace and prosperity”.

Today, US president Donald Trump also said that “things are going very well” in negotiations between North and South Korea.

Tweeting today, Trump said he had had a “very good talk” with South Korea president Moon Jae-in.

“Just had a long and very good talk with President Moon of South Korea,” Trump tweeted.

“Things are going very well, time and location of meeting with North Korea is being set.

Also spoke to Prime Minister Abe of Japan to inform him of the ongoing negotiations.

Earlier, North Korea’s state media hailed the summit as a “historic meeting” that paved the way for the start of a new era, after the two leaders pledged to pursue denuclearisation and a permanent peace.

In the Panmunjom Declaration, North Korean leader Kim Jong Un and the South’s President Moon Jae-in “confirmed the common goal of realising, through complete denuclearisation, a nuclear-free Korean Peninsula”.

But the phrase is a diplomatic euphemism open to interpretation on both sides.

Pyongyang has long wanted to see an end to the US military presence and nuclear umbrella over the South, but it invaded its neighbour in 1950 and is the only one of the two Koreas to possess nuclear weapons.

Analysts warn that previous displays of inter-Korean affection and pledges by the North ultimately came to naught.

For years, Pyongyang insisted it would never give up the “treasured sword” of its nuclear arsenal, which it says it needs to defend itself against a possible US invasion.

But it has offered to put it up for negotiation in exchange for security guarantees, according to Seoul – although Kim made no public reference to doing so at yesterday’s spectacular summit.

In a separate report, KCNA said the two leaders had a “candid and open-hearted exchange of views” on issues including “ensuring peace on the Korean Peninsula and the denuclearisation of the peninsula”.

The Rodong Sinmun newspaper, the mouthpiece of the North’s ruling Workers’ Party, devoted the first four of its six pages to the event, carrying a total of 60 photos, 15 of them on page one.

State television broadcast several minutes of footage from the meeting, including the leaders’ embrace, but with a voiceover throughout, and deployed veteran newsreader Ri Chun Hee to read out the declaration.

Yang Moo-jin of the University of North Korean Studies said the breadth of coverage was a signal the North was “sincere in its commitment”.

“It is also another signal to Washington in the lead up to the US-North Korea summit that the ball is in your court now,” he told AFP.

‘For the people’

When Kim stepped over the military demarcation line that divides the peninsula he became the first North Korean leader to set foot in the South since the Korean War hostilities ceased in 1953 with an armistice rather than a peace treaty.

He then persuaded Moon to step into the North – a fact reported by KCNA – and the two leaders shared a day of smiles, intimate moments, and a half-hour-long one-on-one conversation.

The North has made rapid progress in its weapons programmes under Kim, detonating its sixth and most powerful nuclear test last year and launching missiles capable of reaching the US mainland, in moves that triggered increasingly strict UN Security Council sanctions against the regime.

Kim and US President Trump traded personal insults and threats of war, sending tensions soaring before Moon seized on the Winter Olympics to broker dialogue, beginning a dizzying whirl of diplomacy that led to yesterday’s meeting in the Demilitarised Zone.

Analysts and diplomats say that a combination of factors were behind Pyongyang’s change of heart, including feeling that it was in a position to negotiate from strength, the looming impact of sanctions, and fear of potential US military action.

But KCNA gave Kim the credit.

“The historic meeting at Panmunjom came to be realised thanks to the supreme leader’s ardent love for the people and will for self-determination” independent of outside influence, it said.

Washington is pressing Pyongyang to give up its weapons in a complete, verifiable and irreversible way, and analysts say that meaningful progress will depend on the outcome of Kim’s much-anticipated summit with Trump in the coming weeks.

Trump yesterday hailed the Korea summit as historic, but warned “only time will tell”.

He told reporters he would not be “played” by the North’s leader at their upcoming meeting, with “two countries” now in the running to host the event.

- © AFP, 2018

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