April 27, 2018 09:36
North Korean leader Kim Jong-un walked across the heavily armed border at 9:30 a.m. Friday morning for a historic meeting with President Moon Jae-in in the truce village of Panmunjom.
Smiling broadly, they shook hands across border and posed together for the camera in turn on each side of the military demarcation line. They inspected a South Korean honor guard and moved on to the Peace House. Before vanishing into a meeting room, Kim signed a visitor's book saying, "A new history starts now. In an era of peace, at the starting point of history."
The two leaders are expected to announce a joint statement around 6:30 p.m. This is only the third summit between leaders of the two Koreas. President Kim Dae-jung met with North Korean leader Kim Jong-il in 2000 and President Roh Moo-hyun also met Kim in 2007. But this is the first time that a North Korean leader has crossed the border and set foot on South Korean soil.
Top of the agenda is the denuclearization of North Korea, and the two leaders will work out their final joint statement on the question at the summit itself, while the rest has been hammered out in advance.
South Korea does not expect a massive breakthrough. Cheong Wa Dae Chief of Staff Im Jong-seok, who is in charge of preparing for the summit, told reporters on Thursday, "The summit would be a success if we could stipulate North Korea's clear willingness to scrap its nuclear weapons and accurately confirm that this means complete denuclearization on the Korean Peninsula."
If that can be achieved, it will lay the groundwork for a summit between Kim and U.S. President Donald Trump in late May or June.
The White House said Wednesday that it will keep pressuring North Korea until it takes "concrete steps toward denuclearization." If the inter-Korean summit fails to elicit some kind of commitment by the North to scrap its nuclear weapons, Moon could face criticism for giving Kim some much-needed breathing space as international sanctions are intensifying.
The two leaders started their talks at 10:15 a.m., 15 minutes earlier than planned, and will break for lunch and continue talking in the afternoon.
They exchanged brief opening remarks in front of the cameras before closing the doors. "It has taken 11 years for this to happen," Kim said. "Walking here I wondered why it has taken so long… Through today's meeting, I hope we won't go back to square one again and non-implementation of what we agree won't happen again."
A government source said the lunch break gave participants time to "reflect on the contents and come up with responses."
The two leaders will also plant a pine tree in the afternoon. Im said the tree "symbolized peace and prosperity" and will be planted on the military demarcation line, "which had symbolized division and confrontation."
It will be planted on a route taken by Hyundai Group founder Chung Ju-yung when he drove a herd of cattle back to his ancestral home in North Korea. The two leaders willl then go for a walk before continuing with the afternoon session.
At 6:30 p.m., the two leaders will sit down to dinner together, eating dishes that reflect their personal histories like rösti from Switzerland, where Kim went to school, and fish from Moon's hometown of Busan, before the summit ends.
- Copyright © Chosunilbo & Chosun.com