The North Korean leader Kim Jong-un has walked across the demilitarised zone (DMZ) between North and South Korea today, hand-in-hand with South Korea’s president Moon Jae-in.
The two leaders smiled and shook hands as they arrived in the truce village of Panmunjom, kicking-off a landmark summit between the two leaders that is set to formally end the Korean war.
Greeted on the South Korean side by a media frenzy, Kim reportedly said to Moon:
It is good to see you. I cannot contain my excitement as we meet here at such a historical place.
Also, it is very moving that you, Mr President, have come to Panmunjom, the demarcation line, to greet me.
In an unscripted move, Kim invited Moon to briefly cross the inter-Korean border to the North Korean side, which Moon accepted, according to the South Korean news agency Yonhap.
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The moment was broadcast on a giant screen to thousands of South Koreans in Seoul.
In a joint press conference, the 34-year-old Kim said:
I feel that (we) have fired a flare at the starting point … the moment of writing a new history vis-a-vis peace, prosperity and North-South relations.
I say this before President Moon and many journalists here that I will hold good discussions with President Moon with a frank, sincere and honest attitude and make a good outcome.
Moon said the border area, that until recently was flanked with loudspeakers blaring propaganda, now symbolises peace instead of division:
The moment Chairman Kim crossed the Military Demarcation Line, Panmunjom became a symbol of peace, not a symbol of division.
I wish to again express my respect to Chairman Kim Jong-un’s decision that made today’s discussions possible.
The world’s eyes and ears are directed toward this place, Panmunjom. The expectations of the people of both the South and the North, as well as our overseas citizens, are also very high.
I wish our talks too will be held frankly, so we can reach an agreement and create a great present for our people and everyone else in the world who wishes for peace.
After the press conference the two leaders headed off for official talks at the House of Peace, just south of the DMZ.
According to officials quoted by Yonhap, Kim joked to Moon during the meeting that he “won’t interrupt your early morning sleep anymore” with missile tests conducted by Pyongyang.
Their talks ended shortly before noon, when Kim returned across the border in a black limousine flanked by a convoy of armed guards on foot.
According to Yonhap, Kim will return later in the day for planned events such as a “friendship walk” with the South Korean president.
The two leaders will also plant a tree on the border to symbolise the new era of peace.
Tonight Kim will be served a banquet of Swiss delicacies with a south Korean twist to commemorate his time spent abroad in Switzerland, the South Korean Blue House said in a statement.
Kim Jong-un’s wife Ri Sol-ju may also attend the dinner, South Korea’s presidential office said.
Previous summits held between the two countries in 2000 and 2007 made agreements for a permanent peace and denuclearisation of the Korean Peninsula, but were not upheld.
North Korea claims to hold a “nuclear button” on Kim’s desk and has fired off missiles in six nuclear tests over the last 12 years.
Some 3,000 journalists and members of the media from 36 countries have signed up to attend the historic Korean summit.