SEOUL, (BRIAN PADDEN).- The Inter-Korean summit began Friday morning with a historic step as North Korean leader Kim Jong Un crossed the military demarcation line that has divided Korea for over 60 years. At the end, the leaders of the communist North and Democratic South embraced prior to announcing a joint declaration committing to denuclearization and peace.

"Today, Chairman Kim Jong Un and I confirmed that the realization of the nuclear-free Korean peninsula through complete denuclearization is our common goal," said President Moon Jae-in at a ceremony to announce what they are calling the Panmunjom declaration.

The North Korean leader also endorsed the joint declaration as well as past inter-Korean agreements without elaborating or specifically acknowledging the agreed upon outcome to dismantle his country's threatening nuclear program.

"We have decided to open this transitional phase of improvement in relations and development by thoroughly implementing the North-South Declarations and all the agreements that have already been adopted," said Kim.

Historic crossing

Kim is now the first North Korean leader to cross into South Korea. He was greeted by Moon, who waited on the South Korean side of the borderline in the village of Panmunjom, the historic site, where the Korean War armistice was signed in 1953. The two leaders smiled as they shook hands across the border. Kim then stepped over the cement boundary marker.

Kim said he was, "excited to meet at this historic place" and later wondered "why it took so long" to get there.

"It really has a strong emotional impact on me," said Kim about the warm welcome he received from the people of South Korea.

President Moon welcomed Kim to the South and said he would like to one day visit North Korea. Laughing, the two together momentarily stepped over the border marker into the North's side of the demilitarized zone.

The two leaders posed for pictures with an unsmiling Kim dressed in a communist Mao-style suit and a smiling Moon in western business attire.

They also agreed to continue efforts to improve relations that had grown increasingly tense over the North's continued nuclear and missile tests, especially accelerated efforts in the last two years to develop nuclear armed intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) capability to target the U.S. mainland.

"We declared together that there will be no more war on the Korean peninsula and that a new era of peace has begun," said Moon.

At the summit Moon and Kim conducted two rounds of meetings during the day, and the South Korean leader hosted a dinner that featured a variety of famous Korean dishes including Pyongyang-style cold noodles. Kim's wife, Ri Sol-ju, and sister Kim Yo Jong Un joined the delegations for dinner with Moon and his wife, Kim Jung-sook.

Diplomatic pivot

This year, Kim pivoted to embrace diplomacy and agreed to engage in negotiations to end his country's nuclear program. Both President Moon's diplomatic outreach to the North, and U.S. President Donald Trump's maximum pressure campaign, which imposed tough sanctions that block virtually all North Korean exports, and that emphasized the possible use of military force, are credited with compelling Kim to change his previous confrontational stance.

The joint declaration "confirmed the common goal of realizing complete denuclearization, and a nuclear free Korean Peninsula."

It also recognized as "meaningful and crucial," North Korea's recent unilateral concessions to suspend further nuclear and missile tests, and to close its Punggye-ri nuclear test site. However, some analysts have expressed skepticism that these measures are meaningful as they only freeze and not reduce the country's nuclear capabilities.

There were also indications that perhaps more serious diplomatic progress was being made away from the official talks when Moon and Kim engaged in what seemed to be a very candid conversation without any staff or advisers present as they sat together for 30 minutes outside the conference hall in the afternoon. Television cameras recorded the meeting from a distance.

Trump-Kim summit

The declaration is meant to prepare the diplomatic ground for the upcoming Trump-Kim summit, expected to be held in May or June. South Korean officials have assured the Trump administration that Kim is prepared to commit to completely and verifiably dismantling his nuclear program in exchange for security guarantees from the U.S., sanctions relief, and developmental assistance.

President Trump applauded the commitment to peace and denuclearization on Twitter, but added that "only time will tell" if the goals are achieved.

Is everybody believing what is going on. James Comey can’t define what a leak is. He illegally leaked CLASSIFIED INFORMATION but doesn’t understand what he did or how serious it is. He lied all over the place to cover it up. He’s either very sick or very dumb. Remember sailor!

While Trump has expressed optimism that a nuclear deal with North Korea can be reached, he has said he will walk out of the meeting if there are signs it "is not going to be fruitful."

Given the unconventional nature of these summits, which come at the beginning and not the end of the negotiation process, and North Korea's past performance in breaking agreements, many remain skeptical that these high-level meetings will lead to real denuclearization progress.

"The devil is in the details and as we have found in the past, in three separate sets of negotiations with North Korea, the devil is always in the details," said Victor Cha, a North Korea scholar with the Center for Strategic and International Studies and a Professor at Georgetown University in Washington.

Peace treaty

Moon and Kim also agreed to work on measures to improve cross-border security, restart family reunions, and work toward replacing the longstanding armistice ending the Korean War in 1953 with a permanent peace treaty, which would also require the approval of the U.S. and China as signatories to the truce.

"I think there is room for North and South Korea to make progress on a peace settlement. That is fundamentally a Korean issue, including confidence building measures along the DMZ, [demilitarized zone], a declaration to end hostilities," said Gary Samore, a former White House arms control coordinator and director of the Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs at Harvard University's Kennedy School of Government.

After their historic talks, the leaders and their wives attended a banquet, along with Kim Jong Un's sister Kim Yo Jong. They raised a toast and were entertained by a variety of musical performances. Kim Jong Un bought Pyongyang-style cold noodles for the dinner, at the request of his South Korean counterpart. The starring role of the noodles led to long lines outside restaurants in South Korea's capital that were serving the dish.

This was the third inter-Korean summit, but the first to take place in South Korea. The meetings in 2000 and 2007 were held in the North.

Lee Youn-jee contributed to this report from Seoul.
GettyImages 630001140WASHINGTON, (VOANEWS).- El presidente de Estados Unidos, Donald Trump, escaló el martes por la noche la guerra de palabras con el líder norcoreano, Kim Jong Un, a quien le dirigió un mensaje muy claro en Twitter: “Mi botón nuclear es mucho más grande y mejor que el tuyo”.

Trump respondió con un tuit a la afirmación que hizo Kim en su discurso de Año Nuevo el lunes, de que él tenía el botón para lanzar armas nucleares en su escritorio, y que todo el territorio continental de Estados Unidos está a su alcance.

En su mensaje, Trump pregunta si alguien del "régimen empobrecido y hambriento" de Kim puede "por favor informarle que yo también tengo un botón nuclear, pero es mucho más grande y más poderoso que el de él, ¡y mi botón funciona!”.

Horas antes Trump había regresado al uso del apodo que le puso a Kim —“rocket man", el hombre cohete—en respuesta a los presuntos signos de alivio de las hostilidades entre los vecinos coreanos.

"El hombre cohete ahora quiere dialogar con Corea del Sur por primera vez. Quizá es una buena noticia, quizá no. ¡Veremos!”, dijo Trump en un tuit el martes por la mañana, en referencia a los ofrecimientos de conversación de alto nivel entre Seúl y Pyongyang para encontrar vías de cooperación de cara a los Juegos Olímpicos de Invierno que el Sur acogerá en febrero.

Kim había sugerido en la víspera que la hermética nación podría enviar una delegación al evento olímpico de Pyeongchang.

En seguimiento a esos acercamientos, Corea del Norte anunció el miércoles que reabrirá un canal de comunicación transfronterizo con Corea del Sur, según funcionarios de Seúl.

Washington duda de las intenciones de Kim. El general H. R. McMaster, dijo a la Voz de América el martes que “quien haya pensado que el discurso [de Año Nuevo de Kim] fue creíble, es que tomó demasiado champaña en las fiestas”.

“Yo creo que el discurso, es muy claro cuál fue su propósito: un intento poco sofisticado de crear una brecha entre Corea del Sur y Estados Unidos, que por supuesto, no va a suceder”, dijo McMaster en una entrevista con Greta Van Susteren, colaboradora de la Voz de América.

Lea además lo que dijo el General McMaster sobre las protestas en Irán.

“Sus acciones provocativas, lo que ha estado haciendo, solo nos acerca más a los aliados”, advirtió.

Por cierto, Trump no posee un botón nuclear en su escritorio. El "maletín" nuclear lo lleva un grupo de oficiales militares a dondequiera que el mandatario se encuentre.

SINGAPORE, (STEVE HERMAN-VOANEWS).- In an agreement signed Tuesday in Singapore, North Korean leader Kim Jong Un “reaffirmed his firm and unwavering commitment to complete denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula,” while U.S. President Donald Trump “committed to provide security guarantees” to North Korea.

The document also calls for the two countries to jointly work on efforts to build a lasting peace on the Korean Peninsula, to establish new U.S.-North Korea relations and to recover the remains of prisoners of war and military members missing in action. The two sides also promised to hold follow-up negotiations.

“We’re going to denuke North Korea,” Trump told VOA contributor Greta Van Susteren.

He also said neither side issued ultimatums and that the agreement Tuesday was the result of months of negotiations.

“You know that could have ended in a war, that could have ended with many millions of people — you know North Korea very well, Seoul has 28 million people, that could have ended with millions of people dead but we ended with a deal,” he said.

Trump also told VOA that U.S. troops stationed in South Korea will remain in place, but announced one concession long-sought by North Korea.

"We are going to get out of the war games that cost so much money," he said.

Trump said at later news conference that existing U.S. sanctions will remain in place until North Korean nuclear weapons "are no longer a factor."

As for verification, Trump said he and Kim discussed the issue and that monitoring denuclearization efforts would be achieved “by having a lot of people there.” He also predicted Kim would begin work right away to “live up to” the agreement.

Asked if the talks included specifics on the size of North Korea’s nuclear arsenal, Trump said “what they have is substantial.”

On human rights, Trump said Tuesday’s meetings only very briefly touched on the topic, but that the two sides would discuss it more in the future. When asked about thousands of people imprisoned in labor camps, Trump said he thinks he has helped them because things in North Korea will change.

“I think they are one of the great winners today,” he said.

He cited American college student Otto Warmbier, who was arrested by North Korean authorities in 2016 and died a year ago after being repatriated to the United States with severe brain damage.

“Otto did not die in vain, he had a lot to do with us being here today,” Trump said.

'Special bond'

The U.S. president repeatedly struck a positive tone about Kim, thanking the North Korean leader for taking what he called a bold step and saying he “has the chance to seize an incredible future for his people.”

He also thanked the leaders of China, Japan and South Korea for their efforts in making Tuesday’s summit happen.

Hours earlier as he sat alongside Kim at the signing ceremony, Trump said the two leaders “have developed a special bond” and that after several hours of talks Tuesday and the signing of the agreement he thinks the U.S. relationship with North Korea “will be very different than in the past.”

Both Trump and Kim expressed gratitude toward each other for the meetings.Trump said he would “absolutely” invite Kim to visit the White House and is open to visiting Pyongyang as well.

“Today we had a historic meeting and decided to leave the past behind,” Kim said, speaking through a translator.”The world will see a major change.”

Kim at one point told Trump that many people around the world would see their meeting as a kind of fantasy, as if it the event was a “science fiction movie.”

​Historic meeting

They first met Tuesday for about 40 minutes alone, except for their translators, before bringing in delegations from their respective sides for a working lunch. They walked outside together after the lunch, stopping briefly to look at the U.S. president's special limousine.

"We had a really fantastic meeting, a lot of progress, very positive," Trump said.

The U.S. side included Pompeo, National Security Adviser John Bolton and White House Chief of Staff John Kelly. The North Korean participants included former military intelligence chief Kim Yong Chol, Minister of Foreign Affairs Ri Yong Ho, and Ri Su Yong, vice chairman of the ruling Workers' Party.

Tuesday marked the first ever meeting between a sitting U.S. president and a North Korean leader. Dozens of cameras snapped photos as the two men first came together in front of a background of U.S. and North Korean flags.

The language in Tuesday’s agreement was not as strong as the CVID standard Pompeo set out. But the secretary of state still seemed positive about the outcome.

“It’s a great day,” Pompeo told VOA.

About 5,000 journalists are in Singapore for the occasion, but only a handful of American and North Korean reporters and photographers were permitted at the venue when the two leaders greet each other.

Reporter Bill Gallo contributed to this report.