Peace in their hands: the Koreas vow to end the war

Beijing: North Korean leader Kim Jong-un and South Korean President Moon Jae-in have declared that they want to see a formal end to the Korean War this year.

After an historic meeting, the two leaders issued a joint declaration that also pledged to pursue the “complete denuclearisation” of the Korean Peninsula.

North Korean leader Kim Jong-un leads South Korean President Moon Jae-in across the military demarcation line to the North side of the border.

The reunion of Korean families separated by the war would also resume, the statement said.

The remarkable declaration came during the first visit by a North Korean leader to the south of the country since the war ended in 1953.

It said the two leaders would push for trilateral talks – involving the United States, or four-way dialogue also involving China – on a peace pact to replace the armistice.

“The South and the North affirmed their mutual goal of realising a nuclear-free Korean Peninsula through complete denuclearisation," the released statement said.

The declaration signed at the truce village of Panmunjom said “the two leaders solemnly declared before the 80 million people of our nation and the entire world that there will be no more war on the Korean Peninsula and a new age of peace has opened”.

In the statement released after the meeting the two Koreas agreed to stop all hostilities against one another, and set up a permanent liaison in the North Korean border town of Kaesong.

They agreed to a conventional arms reduction pending the removal of military tension. Moon would travel to Pyongyang for a second summit.

Earlier, the pair planted a tree that sprouted in 1953, the year the armistice was signed to end the 1950-53 Korean War, according to the South Korean presidential office.

The first handshake between the two leaders in the morning was watched around the world.

Moon had said in televised comments at the start of their meeting at Peace House: “The moment Chairman Kim crossed the Military Demarcation Line, Panmunjom became a symbol of peace, not a symbol of division.”

The US, China and South Korea have maintained that the goal of any talks must be denuclearisation.

In an abrupt change, Kim last month said he would agree to discuss denuclearisation, but wanted a security guarantee in return and the removal of military threats against North Korea.

That offer prompted US president Donald Trump to agree to meet Kim in person. The meeting is likely to happen in June.

The pair walk together through a honour guard.

Trump sent his then CIA chief, now secretary of state Mike Pompeo to meet Kim at Easter.

Then, at a secret meeting in Beijing with Chinese president Xi Jinping four weeks ago, Kim reportedly said “achieving denuclearisation of the peninsula is our consistent position”, but he added that South Korea and the US needed to take “simultaneous measures to achieve peace”.

There is speculation this may include a request for the US to withdraw its military from the peninsula.

The Chinese foreign ministry said China applauded the historic steps taken by the leaders of the two Koreas and hopes the meeting will usher in a new chapter of long-standing peace.

White House spokeswoman Sarah Huckabee Sanders said: “We are hopeful that talks will achieve progress toward a future of peace and prosperity for the entire Korean Peninsula”.

The US had close coordination with its ally South Korea “and looks forward to continuing robust discussions in preparation for the planned meeting between President Donald J. Trump and Kim Jong-un in the coming weeks".

Last week, North Korean television’s senior presenter, Ri Chun-hee, dressed in full traditional pink gown, announced to North Koreans that the nation would dismantle its nuclear test site and halt intercontinental ballistic missile testing.

Until now, North Koreans had celebrated each successful missile launch and were told the program was needed to guarantee their safety against America.

North Korean media had pitched the shift in policy as Kim choosing to focus on boosting the economy, now that the country had risen to the status of a political and military powerhouse.

North Korea's economy has been severely affected by ramped up sanctions, and the determination of China to enforce them.

His journey to South Korea on Friday was front page news in North Korea’s state newspaper.

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