By Christine Kim, Josh Smith and Roberta Rampton
The leaders of North and South Korea pledged at their historic summit on Friday to work for the “complete denuclearisation” of the Korean peninsula, but U.S. President Donald Trump said he would maintain pressure on Pyongyang ahead of his own unprecedented meeting with North Korea’s Kim Jong Un
The day produced dramatic images and emotions for Koreans and a sweeping declaration, but was short on specific commitments and failed to clear up key questions about Pyongyang’s intentions over its nuclear arsenal ahead of the U.S.-North Korean summit expected in coming weeks.
Holding the first inter-Korean summit in more than a decade – an event marked by smiles, handshakes and embraces – South Korean President Moon Jae-in and Kim agreed to work with the United States and China this year to declare an official end to the 1950s Korean War and establish a permanent peace agreement.
Trump, who has raised expectations that his meeting with Kim will deliver tangible results, said he looked forward to the encounter and expressed hope it would be productive.
But he added: “We will not repeat the mistakes of past administrations. Maximum pressure will continue until denuclearisation occurs.”
He was speaking at a joint White House news conference with German Chancellor Angela Merkel.
The declaration from the Moon-Kim meeting included promises to pursue phased arms reduction, cease hostile acts, transform their fortified border into a peace zone and seek multilateral talks with other countries including the United States.
“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,” the two sides said.
The summit was held at the village of Panmunjom in the heavily fortified Demilitarized Zone at the border that has divided the Koreas for more than six decades.
But even as the Koreas agreed on a common goal of a “nuclear-free” peninsula, they stopped short of spelling out exactly what that meant or how it might come about.
The Trump administration defines “denuclearisation” as Kim giving up his nuclear weapons, something he has been unwilling to do. North Korea has historically demanded the United States withdraw its troops and remove its “nuclear umbrella” of support for the South.
Moon agreed to visit the North Korean capital of Pyongyang this year, the leaders said.
Earlier, Kim became the first North Korean leader since the 1950-53 Korean War to set foot in South Korea after shaking hands with his counterpart over a concrete curb marking the border.
CONTRAST WITH TENSIONS
The scenes of Moon and Kim joking and walking together were a striking contrast to last year’s barrage of North Korean missile tests and its largest ever nuclear test, which led to sweeping international sanctions and fears of war.
Their meeting was meant in part to lay some of the groundwork for the Trump-Kim meeting, which would be the first encounter between sitting leaders of the two countries.
Trump, who has exchanged nuclear threats and personal insults with Kim in the past year, welcomed the Korean talks while injecting a note of caution.
In Twitter messages early on Friday he said only time would tell what the summit would achieve, but added “KOREAN WAR TO END! The United States, and all of its GREAT people, should be very proud of what is now taking place in Korea!”
Kim, widely regarded by many Americans and South Koreans as a brutal dictator, appeared to use the summit to soften his international image.
Trump has credited a U.S.-led “maximum pressure” campaign of sanctions and military threats with bringing Kim to the negotiating table.
Many analysts say that while sanctions have hurt, Kim now believes he has leverage to negotiate because of the advances he has made in developing a nuclear-tipped missile capable of hitting the United States, and is unlikely give up that full nuclear capability.
But Trump told reporters on Friday: “I don’t think he’s playing … It’s never gone this far. This enthusiasm for them wanting to make a deal.”
“We are going to hopefully make a deal. If we don’t, that’s fine,” Trump said, adding that two or three sites were under consideration for his meeting with Kim. It is being planned for late May or early June.
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