North Korean leader Kim Jong Un and South Korean President Moon Jae In on Friday planted a 65-year-old pine tree together on the military demarcation line between the two countries following their discussions on denuclearisation on the Korean Peninsula.
The tree, which is older than the conflict between North and South Korea, is meant to symbolise peace and prosperity.
The leaders of North and South Korea held “serious and honest” discussions about denuclearisation at a landmark meeting on Friday.
The summit between the rival neighbours – only the third since the end of the Korean War in 1953 – began with Kim making a historic border crossing into the South.
“At the summit, the two leaders held serious and honest discussions on ways to denuclearize the Korean Peninsula, establish permanent peace and develop South-North Korea relations,” said South Korean presidential spokesman Yoon Young Chan, in comments carried by the Yonhap news agency.
Yoon said both sides said they would continue working level talks but were still deciding on the wording of an agreement that will be issued at the end of the summit.
Earlier while taking turns to speak while facing each other over the oval negotiating table made especially for the talks, Kim and Moon both said they were hopeful the summit would produce positive results.
Kim, sitting next to his sister Kim Yo Jong, said the meeting could help “make up for lost time” and said he hoped the talks would help the rival neighbours move forward.
He also joked that he hoped Moon would enjoy the traditional North Korean cold glass noodles brought from Pyongyang for the banquet to be held that evening.
Moon described Kim’s decision to make the historic crossing of the demarcation line as “brave” and a “symbol of peace,” and said he hoped they could work together to make “brave decisions.”
By crossing the military demarcation line, Kim became the first North Korean leader to step foot in South Korea since the end of the Korean War that ended in armistice, but not a peace settlement.
Kim shook and held hands with Moon and in an apparently unscripted moment, the two leaders briefly walked back across the line – marked by a row of drab concrete slabs – into North Korea and then walked back into the South.
The summit will set the tone for a meeting between Kim and U.S. President Donald Trump expected to take place late May or early June.
Washington said it hoped Friday’s encounter would “achieve progress toward a future of peace and prosperity for the entire Korean Peninsula.”
The U.S. “looks forward to continuing robust discussions in preparation for the planned meeting between President Donald J Trump and Kim Jong Un in the coming weeks,” the White House said in a statement issued shortly after Kim’s arrival.
Friday’s summit comes after a diplomatic offensive launched by Kim at the beginning of the year.
The surprising move has eased tensions over his regime’s aggressive nuclear and missile programmes.
Later in the day, the two Korean leaders will plant a pine tree dating from 1953, before a final
agreement is signed and announced.
At 6.30 p.m. (0930 GMT) they will attend a welcoming banquet where, in addition to the cold noodles, dishes including a Korean version of Swiss roesti (fried shredded potatoes – a nod to Kim’s school days in Switzerland) will be served.
South Korea says the summit is dealing with “the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula, the establishment of permanent peace on the Korean Peninsula, and the advancement of inter-Korean relations.”
A high-level South Korean government official confirmed that both sides also want to discuss a peace treaty to formally end the Korean War.
Kim last week pledged to suspend long-distance missile tests and close an atomic testing site in an announcement that South Korea described as “meaningful progress” that would “create a very positive environment for success” at the summit.
Many experts, however, do not believe that Kim will be willing to relinquish his country’s nuclear arsenal, developed in defiance of UN sanctions and international condemnation.
The summit will be only the third-ever such meeting. Kim’s father, Kim Jong Il, held meetings with his South Korean counterparts in 2000 and 2007. (dpa/NAN)