North and South Korean leaders commit to ‘complete denuclearisation’
Image credit: Korea Summit Press Pool via PA
A joint statement issued by North Korean leader Kim Jong Un and his South Korean counterpart Moon Jae-in announced that the two men had confirmed a joint ambition of a "nuclear-free Korean peninsula through complete denuclearisation".
Before the historic summit meeting in the demilitarised zone (DMZ) - only the third-ever meeting between leaders of North and South Korea - Kim Jong Un walked across the military demarcation line dividing the two nations, becoming the first North Korean leader to set foot on South Korean soil. He then signed a guest book at South Korea’s Peace House in the truce village of Panmunjom, although not before persuading Moon Jae-in to return the cross-border favour and join him in North Korea briefly for a photo opportunity.
However, the post-summit statement did not provide any new specific measures on how “complete denuclearisation” might be achieved. Experts have said that any agreement on dismantling North Korea’s nuclear weapons would be difficult, given Pyongyang’s advanced nuclear technology and the complexity of verifying its denuclearisation.
For its part, Pyongyang had already announced last weekend that it would suspend nuclear and long-range missile tests and also close its Punggye-ri nuclear test site. The two leaders suggested that denuclearisation would be conducted in a gradual, phased manner.
North Korea has previously used the term “denuclearisation” to say it will disarm only when the US withdraws its 28,500 troops currently stationed in South Korea.
The two countries also said they will jointly push for talks with the US and China to officially end the 1950-53 Korean War, which ended with an armistice and technically left the two Koreas still at war with each other. The Korean leaders are seeking a peace treaty that would help establish permanent peace on the Korean peninsula.
The official statement read: “We solemnly declare to our 80m Koreans and the world that there will no more war on the Korean peninsula and a new era of peace has begun. It is our urgent historic assignment to put an end to this current abnormal state of ceasefire and establish a peace regime.”
US President Donald Trump has given his “blessing” to the proposal to officially end the Korean War. The US would have to become formally involved with any negotiations to hammer out a peace treaty as American soldiers fought in the war and South Korea was not a signatory to the armistice. A US-North Korea summit meeting between Donald Trump and Kim Jong Un is already planned for later this year.
Outside of the core military discussions, the two Koreas have also agreed to open a permanent communication office in the North Korean town of Kaesong and resume temporary reunions between relatives separated by the war. Civilian exchanges and joint sporting and cultural events are also mooted for the future.
“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 the summit meeting table, which had been built so that precisely 2018mm separated the two leaders, seated across from each other in the closed-door session.
Mr Moon replied, saying that a peace agreement between the two countries would be a “big gift to the entire Korean nation and every peace-loving person in the world”.
Mr Kim acknowledged the failure of past agreements, recalling how “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.”
The two leaders agreed to hold further military talks in May and also to establish a joint liaison office in Kaesong, the border town in North Korea. An end to hostile, provocative activity has also been declared, such as cessation of propaganda broadcasts and leaflet distribution.
E&T visited the DMZ on the North-South Korea border earlier this year, as part of our series of features about famous walls and borders.