North Korea

North Korea’s Kim felt ‘very close’ to the South’s Moon at summit in Pyongyang

In turn, Moon thanked Kim for opening up ‘a new era’ in relations on first day of three-day visit

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 18 September, 2018, 3:56pm
UPDATED : Tuesday, 18 September, 2018, 11:22pm

Thousands of cheering North Koreans lined the streets of Pyongyang on Tuesday as their leader Kim Jong-un and South Korean President Moon Jae-in waved from the black car driving them through the city to the venue for their historic summit.

The motorcade was under tight security, guarded by North Korean soldiers on motorcycles. The leaders’ vehicle was followed by a grey van carrying a dozen cameramen capturing each moment.

Moon, who was on a mission to revive talks between Pyongyang and Washington, wrote: “Korean people’s hearts are united under peace and prosperity” in the guest book at the Central Committee of the Workers’ Party of Korea.

It was his maiden visit to the capital of the North and the first time a leader from the South had entered the Workers’ Party building, which contains Kim’s office.

Previous meetings between leaders of the two Koreas – including the last visit by former president Roh Moo-hyun 11 years ago – were held in the state guest house in Paekhwawon, where Moon and his wife Kim Jeong-sook are staying during the three-day trip.

“I now feel we have become very close to one another. It is [through] President Moon’s effort that improvements in DPRK-US relations were made,” Kim said before the talks, referring to his country’s official name, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea. “This led to stability in the region and I believe more progress will be made.”

Moon responded by saying: “I would like to express my gratitude for Chairman Kim’s decision to open up a new era … I feel a heavy responsibility. I hope the summit bears fruit to bring good news in time for the Mid-Autumn Festival.”

During the two-hour talks, Kim and Moon discussed stalled diplomacy with the US and progress in denuclearisation.

Since US President Donald Trump’s meeting with Kim in Singapore, relations have deteriorated.

Washington wants “final, fully verified denuclearisation”, while Pyongyang seeks a declaration to end the Korean war but has accused the US of “gangster-like” demands to give up its weapons.

Moon arrived at the airport in Pyongyang on Tuesday morning and was embraced by Kim after he stepped out of his Boeing 747-400. Just last year, Kim was supervising missile launches from virtually the same spot, aggravating already tense cross-border ties.

Moon, taking advantage of the rapid thaw since then, is travelling with a 200-strong delegation of officials and business leaders, hoping to strengthen ties through economic incentives.

While Kim and Moon talked, meetings were held on various levels at the People’s Palace of Culture. Samsung vice-chairman Lee Jae-yong met Vice-Premier Ri Yong-nam, who is in charge of North Korea’s economic policies. Meanwhile, several South Korean ministers met North Korea’s President of the Presidium of the Supreme People’s Assembly Kim Yong-nam.

Moon and Kim will continue their summit on Wednesday and may announce a joint declaration in the afternoon.

Additional reporting by Agence France-Presse