North and South Korea Agree to ‘Complete Denuclearization,’ End of Korean War

PANMUNJOM, SOUTH KOREA - APRIL 27: North Korean Leader Kim Jong Un (L) and South Korean President Moon Jae-in (R) shake hands over the military demarcation line upon meeting for the Inter-Korean Summit on April 27, 2018 in Panmunjom, South Korea. Kim and Moon meet at the border today for …
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At their historic summit meeting in Panmunjom on Friday, North Korean dictator Kim Jong-un and South Korean President Moon Jae-in announced they would work for the “complete denuclearization of the Korean peninsula” and formally end the Korean War after 55 years.

“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 summit declaration.

North and South Korea cannot unilaterally end the Korean War on their own, as China and the United States must also sign the peace treaty. The summit led to a commitment from both Korean governments that they would begin working with Washington and Beijing this year to formally end the war.

Seoul and Pyongyang also agreed to hold more high-level talks and bilateral events, establish a joint liaison office in the Kaesong industrial zone, jointly participate in international sporting events such as the 2018 Asian Games, work on reuniting families separated by the Korean War, and resume joint economic projects that were canceled when inter-Korea relations soured.

Another significant development is that both sides agreed to stop throwing propaganda at each other across the Demilitarized Zone – South Korea uses loudspeakers, while North Korea favors printed leaflets – and establish a “peace zone” along their maritime border to ensure the safety of fishermen.

The American and Chinese governments both welcomed the Korean declaration. Naturally, President Donald Trump did so on Twitter:

China’s congratulations were delivered in a more formal style by the Foreign Ministry, as quoted by South Korea’s Yonhap news service:

Today, the leaders of South and North Korea held their summit successfully. (They) announced a joint declaration on their common understanding of inter-Korean relations, easing military tension on the Korean Peninsula, denuclearizing the peninsula and a permanent peace. The positive outcome of the summit is helpful for inter-Korean reconciliation and cooperation, peace and stability on the peninsula and the political resolution of Korean Peninsula issues.

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe praised the summit agreements as “positive news,” but injected a note of skepticism into his congratulations, stating that his government will “keep watching North Korea.” He suggested he would withhold final judgment until he speaks with President Moon directly.

“Japan will compare the latest declaration to the previous ones and respond according to the analysis. Japan will solidly unite with South Korea and the United States, as well as with China and Russia, for the resolution of abduction, nuclear and missile issues,” said Abe.

The summit agreements are, at the moment, primarily symbolic in nature, but the symbolism is powerful. Observers around the world marveled at surreal photos and videos of Kim Jong-un walking onto South Korean soil and shaking hands with Moon.

“It was a very courageous decision for you to come all the way here,” Moon told Kim.

Kim then broke from the tightly scripted ceremony to invite Moon to walk back across the border with him. “Maybe this is the right time for you to enter North Korean territory,” he said.

Moon accepted the offer, so Friday saw the leaders of both nations walking on each others’ territory for the first time since the armistice in 1953.

Moon later announced that he will visit Pyongyang this fall, and expressed a desire to visit historic Mount Paektu near the Chinese border.

“Wow, if you invite me to the Blue House I am willing to go to the Blue House anytime,” Kim said after Moon broached the possibility of a visit to the presidential house in Seoul.

Kim poured on the charm with a number of little jokes during the summit, such as his humorously-phrased promise to discontinue the provocative early-morning missile tests that brought the Korean peninsula to the brink of war: “President Moon, I heard you didn’t sleep very well because you had to take part in a National Security Council meeting, and you have habitually been waking up very early … I will make sure I won’t interrupt your morning sleep anymore.”

Of course, it will take more than a few symbolic gestures and witty remarks at a summit meeting to ease the tensions North Korea has created. It should be noted that the South Korean opposition was strongly critical of the summit, calling it a “show camouflaged as peace” where Moon “wrote down the words Kim called out.” Opposition leaders also criticized Moon for committing to bilateral denuclearization instead of insisting on North Korea’s nuclear disarmament.

While President Moon stressed the importance of the two Korean governments leading the way in resolving their differences, South Korean Foreign Minister Kang Kyung-wha told CNN on Friday that her government appreciates President Trump’s role in advancing the peace process, or “stepping on the accelerator,” as she put it.

“Clearly, credit goes to President Trump. He’s been determined to come to grips with this from day one,” she said.

The ball is once again in President Trump’s court, as his own summit meeting with Kim Jong-un is tentatively scheduled for May or June, with the date and venue yet to be determined.

“It could be that I walk out quickly – with respect, but it could be. It could be that maybe the meeting doesn’t even take place. Who knows? But I can tell you right now they want to meet,” Trump told Fox News on Thursday.

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