Updated at 9:42 a.m. ET
The leaders of North and South Korea pledged Friday to remove all nuclear weapons from their peninsula and vowed to work toward an official end to the Korean War.
The meeting between Kim Jong Un and South Korean President Moon Jae In contained many firsts: Kim became the first North Korean leader to ever step inside the South. And in an apparently unscripted moment, the North Korean leader invited Moon to step across the demarcation line that divides their two countries. They did so together, holding hands, and then stepped back into South Korea.
“South and North Korea confirmed the common goal of realizing, through complete denuclearization, a nuclear-free Korean Peninsula,” a statement signed by the two leaders said following the meeting at the border village of Panmunjom.
Even more surprising was a remark from Kim, who said: “I came here to put an end to the history of confrontation.”
Such a scenario was unimaginable just a few months ago. Even as U.S. officials expressed an impatience for North Korea’s total, unilateral denuclearization, Moon recently cautioned his aides against “an excessive eagerness to try to fix all problems at once.”
The summit, which took place on the South Korean side of the joint security area in Panmunjom, the iconic village straddling the border between North and South Korea, was the first meeting between the two countries’ leaders since 2007. In October of that year, then–South Korean President Roh Moo Hyun crossed the military line of demarcation on foot into North Korea, where he was greeted by the North Korean leader Kim Jong Il. This Friday, Kim, his son, crossed the border to the South. Photographs show the two leaders chatting on a leisurely walk along one of the world’s most heavily fortified borders.
It was a sharp departure from the tone of barely a year ago, when news reports from the peninsula tended to reference “heightened tension.” At the time, Kim was accelerating the pace of his nuclear and missile testing while President Trump lobbed threats back in his direction. But the mood shifted suddenly with the Korean Olympics and Trump’s promise of a U.S.–North Korean summit meeting. In the interim, the tantalizing possibility of peace is one that Moon campaigned on, and the inter-Korean summit was an important test of that promise on a major stage.