How North and South Korean media reacted to historic talks aimed at ‘complete denuclearisation’
For years, Pyongyang insisted it would never give up the ‘treasured sword’ of its nuclear arsenal, which it says it needs to defend itself against a possible US invasion
North Korea on Saturday hailed its summit with the South as a “historic meeting” that paved the way for the start of a new era, after the two leaders pledged to pursue a permanent peace and rid the peninsula of nuclear weapons.
Meanwhile, South Korean newspapers cautiously welcomed the inter-Korean summit but lamented the lack of a firmer commitment to remove the North’s weapons.
Pyongyang’s official KCNA news agency carried the text of the leaders’ Panmunjom Declaration in full and said the encounter opened the way “for national reconciliation and unity, peace and prosperity”.
In the document North Korean leader Kim Jong-un and the South’s President Moon Jae-in “confirmed the common goal of realising, through complete denuclearisation, a nuclear-free Korean Peninsula”.
That phrase was included in the KCNA text as well.
Watch: North and South Korean leaders pledge peace
For years, Pyongyang insisted it would never give up the “treasured sword” of its nuclear arsenal, which it says it needs to defend itself against a possible US invasion.
But it has offered to put it up for negotiation in exchange for security guarantees, according to Seoul – although Kim made no public reference to doing so at Friday’s spectacular summit.
When Kim stepped over the military demarcation line that divides the peninsula he became the first North Korean leader to set foot in the South since the Korean war hostilities ceased in 1953 with an armistice rather than a peace treaty.
He then persuaded Moon to step into the North, and the two leaders shared a day of smiles, intimate moments, and a half-hour-long one-on-one conversation.
The North has made rapid progress in its weapons programmes under Kim, detonating its sixth and most powerful nuclear test last year and launching missiles capable of reaching the US mainland, in moves that triggered increasingly strict UN Security Council sanctions against the regime.
Kim and US President Donald Trump traded personal insults and threats of war, sending tensions soaring before Moon seized on the Winter Olympics to broker dialogue, beginning a dizzying whirl of diplomacy that led to Friday’s meeting in the demilitarised zone.
Analysts and diplomats say that a combination of factors were behind Pyongyang’s change of heart, including feeling that it was in a position to negotiate from strength, the looming impact of sanctions, and fear of potential US military action. But KCNA gave Kim the credit.
“The historic meeting at Panmunjom came to be realised thanks to the supreme leader’s ardent love for the people and will for self-determination,” it said.
Washington is pressing Pyongyang to give up its weapons in a complete, verifiable and irreversible way, and analysts say that meaningful progress will depend on the outcome of Kim’s much-anticipated summit with Trump in the coming weeks.
Watch: how did Korea become divided?
In South Korea, the conservative Chosun daily said in an editorial that the agreement was positive in terms of repairing frozen ties between the two Koreas but left much to be desired in terms of denuclearisation.
“This is one step back from what was agreed in 2005,” it said in reference to an accord under which the North promised to abandon “all nuclear weapons and existing nuclear programmes” and allow outside inspectors in for verification.
“Even if an agreement is reached on denuclearising the North at the upcoming US-North Korea summit, it will take a while to demolish nuclear facilities, weapons and fissile materials,” it added.
It noted Kim himself made no mention of denuclearisation in public.
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“In order to ensure the North does not backpedal on it again as it did in the past 25 years, continuous sanctions and pressure are required,” it said.
The Joongang daily said the current situation was “drastically different” from a few months earlier, when the leaders of the United States and North Korea were engaged in a contest over whose nuclear button was bigger and more powerful.
“But it was also revealed that there is a long way to go before denuclearisation,” it said. “It was never made public what Kim’s idea of denuclearisation is and how and when denuclearisation will be accomplished.
“That is why the latest agreement is seen as just the starting point on a long journey toward denuclearisation.”