In a historic move, the leaders of both North and South Korea have agreed to end the Korean War. This signals the closing of 65 years of hostility. Their announcement also describes working towards the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula.
It is a strong beginning, but just that. The future hurdles include dialogue with both China and the United States.
South Korean President Moon Jae-in and his North Korean counterpart, Kim Jong Un, signed the “Panmunjom Declaration for Peace, Prosperity and Unification on the Korean Peninsula.”
This historic signing took place at the demilitarized zone (DMZ), after a full day of meetings, including a 30-minute private conversation. Both men in speeches promised a new era for the Korean Peninsula. Addressing the world’s media, Kim said the Koreas “will be reunited as one country.”
The war started in Korea in 1950 when soldiers from the North Korean People’s Army invaded the South. The armed conflict ended three years later in 1953, with the signing of an armistice agreement, no formal peace treaty was ever signed, and technically, both the North and the South remain at war.
This major announcement now sets up another historic meeting between President Trump and Kim Jong Un. A summit is planned for some time this year.
When the news broke early Friday morning, Trump tweeted that all Americans “should be very proud of what is now taking place in Korea!”
“After a furious year of missile launches and nuclear testing, a historic meeting between North and South Korea,” he said. “Good things are happening, but only time will tell!”
One of the major hurdles will be clearly defining what is meant by denuclearization.
“Going into the US-North Korea summit, the key question remains whether North Korea would truly give up its nuclear weapons program,” Asia Pacific analyst Evan Rees said in a statement.
“The phrasing of the Panmunjom Declaration refers to denuclearization of the peninsula, which could mean movement of US strategic assets, and a phased, rather than a rapid denuclearization — which goes against what the US has called for.”
South Korea scripted the meeting of the two leaders, down to the second, but Kim delivered the most dramatic moment of the historic day. After the North Korean leader crossed the military demarcation line separating North and South Korea to shake hands with Moon, Kim invited him to step into the North. This caused gasps, cheers and applause from people watching on a large screen in Seoul.
“President Moon briefly crossed over the MDL to the North,” the Blue House said in a statement. ”This was not a planned event.”
Moon praised Kim’s “courageous and bold decision” to sit down for talks during their morning meeting. “Over the past seven decades we weren’t able to communicate, so I think we can talk the whole day today”, Moon said, causing Kim to laugh.