Korean leaders announce intent to end war, denuclearize peninsula
A rare summit between the leaders of North and South Korea produced a joint pledge to work toward denuclearization of the peninsula and a formal end to the Korean War, which ended in 1953 with an armistice instead of a peace treaty.
While the declaration by South Korea’s Moon Jae-in and North Korea’s Kim Jong Un heightened hopes for peace, U.S. President Donald J. Trump said Washington will continue to exert economic pressure on North Korea until Kim takes firm steps to dismantle his nuclear arsenal.
“We will not repeat the mistakes of past administrations,” Trump said, according to Reuters. “Maximum pressure will continue until denuclearization occurs.”
The Korean leaders’ joint statement was issued after a day of talks at the border outpost of Panmunjom, South Korea. Although the statement has no legal weight, it could signal a new era of warmer relations, observers said.
“I saw a lot of spontaneity — what I would say was an authentic dialogue between these two leaders,” said John Delury, associate professor at Yonsei University in Seoul, according to The Los Angeles Times newspaper. “There’s a serious burden on both of these leaders’ shoulders, in a place where many of us thought this was slipping toward a serious military confrontation.”
The joint statement focused on improving relations, reducing military tensions and working toward a Korean Peninsula without nuclear weapons, the Times reported. The agreement, however, lacked specifics about how North Korea plans to dismantle its nuclear program. Delury said the broad strokes of the joint statement showed prudence ahead of Kim’s expected meeting with Trump in the coming weeks.
“To me, it looks like a careful and deliberate approach that has a burst of momentum, but they’re also looking to sustain this process,” he said.
The joint declaration promised to pursue phased arms reduction, cease hostile acts and transform the border into a peace zone, Reuters reported.
“The two leaders declare before our people of 80 million and the entire world there will be no more war on the Korean Peninsula and a new age of peace has begun,” the declaration said.
(Pictured: North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, left, and South Korean President Moon Jae-in raise their hands after signing a joint statement.)
The leaders already have taken small steps toward easing tensions. South Korea promised to remove loudspeakers that blare propaganda across the border. North Korea agreed to adjust its clocks 30 minutes earlier to align with South Korea’s time zone. The northern time zone was created three years ago to mark the 70th anniversary of Korea’s liberation from Japanese rule.
The possibility of bilateral talks between Pyongyang and Japan also surfaced at the summit. Kim told Moon he is willing to hold talks with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, who indicated he is open to the idea, according to a report from Kyodo News.
The flurry of developments was received warmly in South Korea, where trust was at a premium after years of ballistic missile and nuclear weapons tests by the North. A survey taken shortly after the summit showed 64.7 percent of South Koreans believe the North will denuclearize. That number was only 14.7 percent before the summit, according to the research agency Realmeter, which surveyed 500 people over the age of 19.