Ilsan, South Korea (CNN) — The leaders of North and South Korea have committed themselves to the complete denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula and pledged to bring a formal end to the Korean War, 65 years after hostilities ceased.
In a remarkable day-long summit that weighed heavy with symbolism, South Korean President Moon Jae-in and his North Korean counterpart, Kim Jong Un embraced, planted a tree and talked alone for more than 30 minutes.
Then they signed the Panmunjom Declaration for Peace, Prosperity and Unification on the Korean Peninsula, which commits the two countries to denuclearization and talks to bring a formal end to conflict.
It was a startling conclusion to the first meeting between leaders of the two countries in 10 years.
In separate speeches, Kim and Moon promised a new era. Addressing the world’s media live on television for the first time, Kim said the Koreas “will be reunited as one country”.
But behind all the ceremony, at the Panmunjom “peace village” in the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ) that separates North and South Korea, there were few concrete details.
The Panmunjom Declaration largely steered clear of specifics regarding Pyongyang’s nuclear capabilities, and did not set out what North Korea would expect to get in exchange for denuclearization.
The pledge to end the Korean war faces major hurdles — any final peace deal must also involve China and the US, both of whom were participants in the original conflict that began in 1950 when the North Korean People’s Army invaded the South.
Although an armistice was signed in 1953, no formal peace treaty was ever concluded, and technically, the peninsula remains at war.
Korean War to end, says Trump
US President Donald Trump and most of the US was asleep as the day’s events unfolded, but when Washington woke, Trump, who is due to meet Kim later in the coming months, hailed the summit.
He tweeted: “After a furious year of missile launches and nuclear testing, a historic meeting between North and South Korea,” he said.
“Good things are happening, but only time will tell!”
In another tweet, he exclaimed: “KOREAN WAR TO END!”
South Korea had choreographed the meeting of the two leaders down to the second, but it was Kim who delivered the most dramatic moment.
After he crossed the military demarcation line separating North and South Korea to shake hands with Moon, Kim invited him to step into the North.
Moon hesitated for the briefest of seconds, before walking into North Korean territory.
The image was greeted by gasps, cheers and applause from people watching it on a large screen in central Seoul, and at a conference centre in nearby Ilsan, where the South Korean government had set up a sprawling media centre for the thousands of journalists invited to watch history being made.
It was also perhaps the only spontaneous moment in what was a carefully scripted affair, which those on the South Korean side had been practising and rehearsing for weeks.
“President Moon briefly crossed over the MDL to the North,” the Blue House said in a statement, referring to the military demarcation line.
“This was not a planned event.”
Historic Korean summit
The rest of the day went entirely to plan, however.
The two leaders appeared acutely aware of the spotlight upon them: Moon maintained an air of calm statesmanship; Kim occasionally appeared to revel in the attention of the world’s media.
Writing in a visitor’s book on entering the Peace House, where discussions took place, Kim wrote “a new history begins now” and “an age of peace, at the starting point of history.”
After a morning of meetings with officials, Kim and Moon took part in a symbolic tree-planting ceremony in the DMZ.
The tree was from 1953, the year the Korean War armistice was signed. Kim used soil from a mountain on the southern island of Jeju while Moon used earth from Mount Paektu in the north.
Korean Unification Flag
Then, the two leaders left their officials behind and struck outside by side through the DMZ to a footbridge that was recently repainted the same blue used on the Korean Unification Flag.
Unexpectedly, they talked for 30 minutes, without anyone taking notes and with cameras at a distance. The contents of the conversation have not been disclosed.
The substantive moment of the summit came when Kim and Moon pair signed the agreement that pledged to end the decades of conflict between their two nations, and set them on a path towards denuclearization.