North Korea’s Kim Jong-un and South Korea’s Moon Jae-in have pledged to formally end the 1950s Korean War and pursue “complete denuclearisation” of the peninsula in the first inter-Korea summit since 2007.
The two leaders signed a joint statement after an historic summit on Friday that saw Kim become the first North Korean leader to step into South Korea since the end of the Korean War in 1953. The peace talks were held in Panmunjom village along the demilitarised zone.
A strictly choreographed day of talks and symbolic gestures momentarily gave way to some spontaneity when Kim asked his South Korean counterpart to reciprocate by briefly stepping into North Korea.
The signing of the declaration came after two rounds of talks between the leaders, as well as a tree-planting ceremony symbolising peace and prosperity on the divided peninsula.
The armistice agreement that halted the Korean War in 1953 is still in place, but South Korea is not a signatory to it.
Kim and Moon also promised to pursue the end of nuclear weapons on the peninsula, though the text of the statement did not include specific measures or a timetable.
“I feel that we are part of one family and both countries will have a new policy of cooperation. After years of disputes, we are here today to say that nothing will make us different again,” Kim said after signing the declaration.
Moon praised North Korea’s leader for freezing his country’s nuclear testing programme, saying it would be a “valuable beginning” for attaining the goal of denuclearisation.
“Kim Jong-un and I declare that there will be no more war on the Korean Peninsula and a new age of peace has begun,” said Moon.
As part of the agreement, the Koreas said they would refrain from the use of force and would deepen ties, working towards reunification.
A communications post is to be established in Kaesong, North Korea. Loudspeaker broadcasts and distribution of propaganda leaflets will end on May 1. Moon is due to visit the North’s capital, Pyongyang, in the coming months.
International leaders welcomed the meeting and the joint statement.
US President Donald Trump tweeted his approval. “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!”
Trump is planning to meet Kim himself as early as late May or early June. He said on Friday there were now only “two or three sites” under consideration for the upcoming summit.
UN spokesman Stephane Dujarric said, “Many around the world were moved by the powerful imagery of the two leaders coming together to advance harmony and peace on the Korean Peninsula.”
He added Secretary-General Antonio Guterres “salutes the courage and leadership that resulted in the important commitments and agreed actions”.
Russia’s foreign ministry hailed the meeting as “very positive news”.
Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said he expected North Korea to take concrete steps towards carrying out its promises. He added Japan was “absolutely not” being left out of the denuclearisation process, saying he would stay in close contact with the US and South Korea.
China’s foreign ministry issued a statement saying it hoped all parties could maintain the momentum for dialogue and jointly promote the resolution process.
Al Jazeera’s Adrian Brown in Beijing said the Chinese were being “very cautious” but also “trying to be positive”.
“The joint declaration talks about one country, which seems to point towards a unified Korea and China really worries about a unified Korea right on its doorstep,” he said.
“It would certainly mean potentially that China would lose influence over the Korean Peninsula.”
Reporting from Paju, South Korea, Al Jazeera’s Kathy Novak said South Koreans would welcome the joint declaration.
“This is something that [Moon] has been promising for some time now; it has certainly been a big day for him,” she said.
After the signing, the Korean leaders were joined by their wives for a lavish banquet.
The summit concluded with a ceremony with live music and a video titled, A New Spring Enjoyed Together, which was projected onto the Peace House in Panmunjom.
Kim then boarded a black Mercedes Benz limousine that drove him and his entourage back to the North.