Kim, Moon Pledge Denuclearization Of Peninsula And End To Korean War : The Two-Way North Korea's Kim Jong Un and South Korea's Moon Jae-in met at the border village of Panmunjom for the first inter-Koreas summit in more than a decade.
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Kim, Moon Pledge Denuclearization Of Peninsula And End To Korean War

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Kim, Moon Pledge Denuclearization Of Peninsula And End To Korean War

Kim, Moon Pledge Denuclearization Of Peninsula And End To Korean War

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AILSA CHANG, HOST:

The leaders of the rival Koreas have agreed to work towards formally ending the Korean War and to seek a nuclear-free peninsula. That agreement came out of a day-long and historic summit between North Korea's Kim Jong Un and South Korea's Moon Jae-in. NPR's Elise Hu was there and has this report.

ELISE HU, BYLINE: It wasn't lost on either Korean leader how historic this day would be. South Korea rehearsed the handshakes and approach to the meeting room for days. And as cameras followed his every move, Kim Jong Un seemed to know his angles.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

SUPREME LEADER KIM JONG UN: (Speaking Korean).

(LAUGHTER)

HU: "Did that make for a good photo?," Kim quipped to a crowd of journalists. But despite what was choreographed, seeing North Korea's leader step over the ankle-high concrete barrier dividing North and South Korea to shake hands with South Korean president Moon Jae-in still felt surprising to historian John Delury.

JOHN DELURY: It's a reminder that even though you have this deep division, at the end of the day these are a common people. There was a lot of that symbolism. I think there was actually more than I expected.

HU: He's a longtime North Korea watcher and professor at Seoul's Yonsei University. He says a long outdoor chat between the two men, which took place after lunch, stands out.

DELURY: They reach a point where they sit together at a table, and they drink tea. And they shooed the cameramen away, and it's just the two of them. And it struck me. They speak the same language. You know, they don't need interpreters.

HU: Differences that have grown since the Koreas split and recent history makes shows of unity all the more stark. Just months ago, North Korea was still ratcheting up tensions with its most powerful nuclear test and longest-range missile test yet.

DELURY: We were, last year, in a place where many of us thought this was slipping toward a serious military confrontation. And that's something certainly Moon Jae-in does not want, and the South Korean people do not want. And I don't think Kim Jong Un does either.

HU: Kim Jong Un pivoted to diplomacy in January. He announced last week he would shut down his main nuclear facility and said he'd maintain a current freeze on testing. By the end of the day-long summit, which featured a joint tree-planting, observing a traditional honor guard, and even a full-body hug, the two men together signed the joint Panmunjom Declaration. In it, they pledged to work toward complete denuclearization of the Korean peninsula and laid out some steps toward a potential peace deal to formally end the Korean War. They announced it standing side by side at podiums in front of the press.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

PRESIDENT MOON JAE-IN: (Speaking Korean).

HU: "I know this is the first time in history for the leader of North Korea to stand in front of the international media and make a joint announcement," Moon said. "I applaud Chairman Kim for his bold decision." In his turn at the mike...

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

KIM: (Speaking Korean).

HU: ...Kim praised the shared declaration without mentioning the denuclearization part out loud.

JENNY TOWN: It's sufficiently vague to not create any obligations that might stand in the way of U.S.-DPRK talks as well.

HU: Jenny Town is the editor of 38 North, an online journal on North Korea policy. DPRK is an acronym for North Korea's formal name.

TOWN: So I think, you know, the South Koreans did what they had to do to make this both, you know, significant and yet not too overreaching.

HU: The tougher part ahead will be working with the United States on steps to denuclearize. Pyongyang has promised to denuclearize before but hasn't followed through. But Town and Delury say, in this round of diplomacy, the summit made strides.

TOWN: This is the first time that they've had an inter-Korean summit at the beginning of an administration.

DELURY: Today was another level of showing that Kim Jong Un is serious. I think we have to open our minds to the possibility it's really happening.

HU: Both Korean leaders said they hope these were the first steps to a more permanent peace. Elise Hu, NPR News, Seoul.

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