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North, South Korea to work towards ending Korean War

Both sides agree to open a liaison office, allow Korean families divided by the border to meet

North Korea's Kim Jong Un and South Korea's Moon Jae-in making a toast during a banquet at the inter-Korean summit at the Peace House in the village of Panmunjom in the Demilitarized Zone on April 27.


THE leaders of North and South Korea embraced on Friday after pledging to work for the "complete denuclearisation of the Korean peninsula", on a day of smiles and handshakes at the first inter-Korean summit in more than a decade.

The two Koreas announced they will work with the United States and China this year to declare an official end to the 1950s Korean War and seek an agreement to establish "permanent" and "solid" peace.

The declaration included promises to pursue phased arms reduction, cease hostile acts, transform their fortified border into a peace zone, and seek multilateral talks with other countries including the US.

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"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," said the two sides.

South Korean President Moon Jae In agreed to visit the North Korean capital of Pyongyang this year, they said. The two leaders released their joint declaration before attending a dinner banquet.

Earlier, North Korea's Kim Jong Un became the first North Korean leader since the 1950-53 Korean War to set foot in South Korea after shaking hands with his counterpart over a concrete curb marking the border in the heavily fortified demilitarised zone.

Scenes of Mr Moon and Mr Kim joking and walking together marked a striking contrast to last year's barrage of North Korean missile tests and its largest ever nuclear test that led to sweeping international sanctions and fears of war.

Their meeting comes weeks before Mr Kim is due to meet US President Donald Trump in what will be the first ever meeting between sitting leaders of the two countries.

Mr Trump welcomed the Korean talks.

"After a furious year of missile launches and nuclear testing, a historic meeting between North and South Korea is now taking place. Good things are happening, but only time will tell!" he tweeted.

He later added: "KOREAN WAR TO END! The United States, and all of its GREAT people, should be very proud of what is now taking place in Korea!"

China welcomed the leaders' statement and said it was willing to keep playing a proactive role in promoting political solutions on the peninsula.

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe also welcomed the summit and said he expected North Korea to take concrete steps to carry out its promises.

Global markets were lifted by hopes the summit would pave the way for the end of conflict on the Korean peninsula. Shares in Seoul briefly rose more than 1 per cent to a one-month high and Japan's Nikkei share average also gained.

As part of efforts to reduce tension, the two sides agreed to open a liaison office, stop propaganda broadcasts and leaflet drops along the border and allow Korean families divided by the border to meet.

Days before the summit, Mr Kim said North Korea would suspend nuclear and long-range missile tests and dismantle its only known nuclear test site.

But there has been widespread scepticism about whether Mr Kim is ready to abandon the nuclear arsenal his country has developed for decades, justifying it as a necessary deterrent against US invasion.

"Everything will not be resolved in the blink of an eye," said Kim Young-hee, a North Korean defector-turned-economist at the Korea Development Bank.

"Kim Jong Un has put the ball in the US court. He declared denuclearisation, and promised to halt nuclear tests. That tells us he wants the US to guarantee the safety of his regime in return for denuclearisation."

It is not the first time leaders of North and South Korea have declared hopes for peace. Two earlier summits, in Pyongyang in 2000 and 2007, failed to halt the North's weapons programmes or improve relations in a lasting way.

"We will make efforts to create good results by communicating closely, in order to make sure our agreement signed today before the entire world, will not end as just a beginning like previous agreements before today," Mr Kim said after the agreement was signed.

Earlier, Mr Moon greeted Mr Kim at the military demarcation line where the men smiled and shook hands.

In an unplanned move, Mr Kim invited Mr Moon to step briefly across into North Korea, before the two leaders crossed back into South Korea holding hands.

"I was excited to meet at this historic place and it is really moving that you came all the way to the demarcation line to greet me in person," Mr Kim said, wearing his customary black Mao suit.

Later writing in Korean in a guest book in the South's Peace House before talks began, Mr Kim said: "A new history starts now. An age of peace, from the starting point of history." REUTERS