Kim Jong un makes history, crosses border to meet his rival
With a single step over a weathered, cracked slab of concrete, North Korean leader Kim Jong unmade history on Friday by crossing over the world’s most heavily armed border to greet his rival, South Korean President Moon Jae-in, for talks on North Korea’s nuclear weapons. Mr. Kim then invited Mr. Moon to cross briefly north with him before they returned to the southern side.
It was all smiles as Mr. Moon grasped Mr. Kim’s hand and led him along a red carpet into South Korean territory, where school children placed flowers and an honour guard stood at attention for inspection.
Mr. Kim’s news agency said that the leader would “open-heartedly” discuss “all the issues arising in improving inter-Korean relations and achieving peace, prosperity and reunification of the Korean peninsula” in a “historic” summit. It’s the first time one of the ruling leaders has crossed over to the southern side of the Demilitarised Zone since the Korean War ended in 1953.
The greeting of the two leaders was planned to the last detail. Thousands of journalists were kept in a huge conference centre well away from the summit, except for a small group of tightly-controlled pool reporters at the border. Mr. Moon stood near the Koreas’ dividing line, moving forward the moment he glimpsed Kim appearing in front of a building on the northern side. They shook hands with the border line between them. Mr. Moon then invited Mr. Kim to cross into the South; Mr. Kim invited Mr. Moon into the North, and they then took a ceremonial photo facing the North and then another photo facing the South.
Two fifth-grade students from the Daesongdong Elementary School, the only South Korean school within the DMZ, greeted the leaders and gave them flowers. The leaders then saluted an honour guard and military band, and Mr. Kim was introduced to South Korean government officials. They were to take a photo inside the Peace House, where the summit was to take place, in front of a painting of South Korea’s Bukhan Mountain, which towers over the South Korean Blue House presidential mansion.
Nuclear weapons will top the agenda, and Friday’s summit will be the clearest sign yet of whether it’s possible to peacefully negotiate those weapons away from a country that has spent decades doggedly building its bombs despite crippling sanctions and near-constant international opprobrium.
Expectations are generally low, given that past so-called breakthroughs on North Korea’s weapons have collapsed amid acrimonious charges of cheating and bad faith.
–GOYANG, SOUTH KOREA, APRIL 27, 2018