Friday 27 April 2018

Kim Jong-un becomes first North Korean leader to cross into South in 65 years

The leaders of North and South Korea concluded their first round of negotiations midway through talks on Friday after two hours of small talk, jokes and pledges to work together to bring long-term peace to the peninsula and make the world a safer place.

Kim Jong-un, regarded last year as an international pariah after conducting his sixth nuclear test, promised a “new beginning” and hailed a new era of peace. South Korean President Moon Jae-in urged “bold” decisions that would be a “great gift” to humanity.

When they broke for lunch a few hours later, the South said the two leaders had so far discussed "denuclearisation and a permanent peace" - but there were no further details.

They re-emerged having eaten in their own countries for a ceremonial tree planting ceremony, which was laden with symbolism.

Kim and Moon planted a pine tree - standing for peace and prosperity - on the Military Demarcation Line, an area synonymous with confrontation and division over the past 65 years.

The pine is a transplanted specimen said to have been seeded in 1953 - the year the Korean War ended - and soil and water from the North and South were used to bed it in.

Their historic meeting began at 9.30am local time as Kim emerged from the Panmungak, the North's symbolic building 80m north of border, with a large entourage including his younger sister, Kim Yo-jong, sweeping down the wide staircase to make his way to the Military Demarcation Line that separates the two countries, where President Moon Jae-in waited to greet him.

With wide grins, the two men shook hands as they met for the first time, and Kim became the first North Korean leader to cross over to the southern side of the Demilitarized Zone since the Korean War ended in 1953 .

“You have come to the South, when will I be able to come to the North?” asked Mr Moon.

“Maybe now is the right time for you to enter North Korean territory?” quipped Kim, and in an unscripted move, the two men held hands as the stepped back over the divide into the North.

The images, broadcast live around the world, were highly emotional for the divided Korean peninsula, which never formally ended the Korean War of 1950-53. In a vast press room a few miles from the location of the talks in Panmunjom, South Korean journalists gasped and applauded.

The meeting of the two leaders was only the third in the history of the two nations, and it has raised hopes of finding an eventual solution to international tensions over Pyongyang’s nuclear and missiles programmes.

In a guestbook at the Peace House summit venue, Kim wrote: "A new history begins now - at the starting point of history and the era of peace."

The reclusive Kim, 34, appeared nervous at first as he met Mr Moon and accompanied him along a red carpet to inspect an honour guard.

But he later relaxed, quipping that he hoped Mr Moon would enjoy the cold noodles speciality he had brought from the North and promising that he would no longer interrupt the South Korean president’s sleep with early morning missile tests.

Kim was "flooded with emotion", he told Mr Moon as their talks began in a grand meeting room in the Peace House in the village of Panmunjom on the southern size of the demilitarised border zone.

"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," Kim told Moon as they sat at a table, which had been built so that exactly 2018 millimeters separated them, to begin their closed-door talks. He urged “candid” and “future-orientated” talks.

“I’m so filled with excitement because of the meeting at this historic site. And I was truly moved that you have come all the way to receive me at the Military Demarcation Line,” he told President Moon.

Kim Jong-un's message in the guest book: 'A new history begins now - at the starting point of history and the era of peace' CREDIT: GETTY
Mr Moon responded that “It was your bold and courageous decision that has allowed us to come this far.”

After two hours of private talks, Kim’s security convoy left to take a lunchbreak in the North, with twelve guards jogging alongside his black Mercedes limousine.

A spokesman from Seoul’s presidential office briefed reporters that their interactions had been amiable, with Kim expressing his admiration for the South’s high speed rail, and Mr Moon making Kim Yo-jong “blush” when he said she was now a celebrity.

"The two leaders had a sincere and frank dialogue over the denuclearisation and the establishment of permanent peace of the Korean peninsula and development of inter-Korea ties," Yoon Young-chan, a spokesman added.

South Korean President Moon Jae-in and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un attend the inter-Korean summit at the truce village of Panmunjom CREDIT: REUTERS
The meeting was also replete with grandiose statements of intent. “We should value this opportunity so that the scars between the South and North could be healed,” Kim was quoted as saying. “The border line isn’t that high; it will eventually be erased if a lot of people pass over it.”

But as the talks prepare to resume, little has been revealed of actual progress towards resolving one of the world’s most pressing security threats.

(Source: Telegraph)

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