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North Korea's Kim Jong-un crosses into South Korea

North Korea's Kim Jong-un crosses into South Korea

[April 27 2018]

Kim Jong-un has become the first North Korean leader to set foot in South Korea by crossing the military line that has divided the peninsula since the end of the Korean War in 1953.

In a moment rich with symbolism and pomp, South Korean leader Moon Jae-in and Mr Kim shook hands at the border.

Mr Kim said he hoped for "frank" discussion during a warm opening exchange as talks kicked off.

The historic summit will cover nuclear weapons and a possible peace treaty.

Much of what they will talk about is likely to have been agreed in advance, but many analysts remain sceptical about the North's sincerity in offering to give up nuclear weapons.

Nevertheless, the whole of South Korea stood still for the moment the two leaders shook hands on both sides of the border in the demilitarised zone between the countries.

Then audiences watched in surprise as Mr Kim invited the South Korean president to step briefly across the demarcation line into North Korea, before the pair stepped back into South Korea - all the while holding hands.

It was an apparently unscripted moment during a highly choreographed sequence of events.

It is the first time Korean leaders have met in more than a decade

'A new history' begins

The leaders were met by an honour guard in traditional costume on the South Korean side. The pair then walked to the at the Peace House in Panmunjom, a military compound in the demilitarised zone (DMZ) between the two countries, to begin talks.

"A new history begins now - at the starting point of history and the era of peace," read the message Mr Kim wrote in a guestbook at the Peace House.

The gravity of the meeting - the first between Korean leaders in more than a decade - was also punctuated by lighter moments. Mr Kim joked about bringing some of North Korea's famous cold noodles for the summit.

"I hope you will really enjoy the noodles that we brought," he said.

The White House said it was hopeful talks would make progress toward peace and prosperity. The Korean summit is seen as a prelude to a proposed meeting between Mr Kim and US President Trump by early June, an unprecedented move as no sitting US president has met with North Korean leader.

The focus of talks

The main focus of the talks is to address North Korea's controversial nuclear weapons programme.

Seoul has warned that reaching an agreement to rid Pyongyang of its nuclear weapons will be "difficult". North Korea's nuclear and missile technology has advanced significantly since the sides' leaders last met more than a decade ago.

The meeting - the third of its kind following summits in 2000 and 2007 - is the result of months of improving relations between the two Koreas.

The meeting is aimed at ending the decades-long conflict on the peninsula

Mr Kim announced last week that he would suspend nuclear tests. The move was welcomed by the US and South Korea as a positive step, although Chinese researchers have indicated that North Korea's nuclear test site may be unusable after a rock collapse following its last test in September.

As well as addressing Pyongyang's nuclear ambitions, the leaders of the two Koreas are expected to discuss a path to peace on the peninsula to formally end the 1950-53 Korean War, and a series of economic and social issues.

What is happening today?

Every detail has been precisely planned, from the timetable to the dinner menu

After an initial session, the pair will break and have lunch separately - with the delegation from the North crossing back to their side of the border.

At an afternoon ceremony, Mr Moon and Mr Kim will plant a pine tree using soil and water from both countries, to symbolise "peace and prosperity"

Many South Koreans were overcome with emotion as they watched the historic moment live on television

Following the tree planting, they will walk together before starting the next round of talks. The summit will conclude with the leaders signing an agreement and delivering a joint statement before dinner. The banquet will be held on the South's side and the menu is as symbolic as the other rituals.

Kim Jong-un will be served the Swiss potato dish r”sti - a nod to his time studying in Switzerland - along with the North's signature dish of cold noodles, and a North Korean liquor.

After dinner, the delegations will watch a video called "Spring of One", before Mr Kim returns home.

Who will attend

Mr Kim is accompanied by nine officials, including his sister, Kim Yo-jong, who led the North's delegation to the Winter Olympics in South Korea earlier this year.

Kim Yo-jong's visit to Pyeongchang mesmerised the crowds

In a rare move - one not seen at previous inter-Korean summits - the delegation will also feature top military officials and diplomats.

South Korea will send seven officials along with President Moon, including the ministers for defence, foreign affairs and unification.

The path to the summit

The summit is the culmination of months of improving relations between the two countries, something few would have predicted as North Korea conducted nuclear tests and fired test missiles at will.

The rapprochement began in January when Mr Kim suggested he was "open to dialogue" with South Korea. The following month the two countries marched under one flag at the opening ceremony of the Winter Olympics.

Mr Kim's new appetite for diplomacy led to the key turning point, a meeting with senior South Korean officials in March and from that came the announcement that Mr Kim would also meet Donald Trump.

Courtesy: BBC

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