With a single step over a slab of concrete, North Korean leader Kim Jong-un made history on Friday, briefly crossing into South Korea. South Korea's President Moon Jae-in then reciprocated, opening a new page in inter-Korean relations.

North Korean leader Kim Jong-un (L) and South Korean President Moon Jae-in after delivering a joint statement during the inter-Korean summit at the truce village of Panmunjom, South Korea on April 27, 2018.
North Korean leader Kim Jong-un (L) and South Korean President Moon Jae-in after delivering a joint statement during the inter-Korean summit at the truce village of Panmunjom, South Korea on April 27, 2018. (Reuters)

North Korean leader Kim Jong-un and South Korea's President Moon Jae-in on Friday signed a declaration agreeing to work for the "complete denuclearisation of the Korean peninsula." 

At the first inter-Korean summit in more than a decade, the two leaders also agreed they would seek an end to the Korean War and a permanent peace on the peninsula.

A declaration issued after their summit meeting included promises to pursue military arms reduction, cease "hostile acts," turn their fortified border into a "peace zone," and seek multilateral talks with other countries, such as the United States. 

"The two leaders declare before our people of 80 million and the entire world there will be no more war on the Korean peninsula and a new age of peace has begun," the two sides said in a joint statement.

Moon Jae-in agreed to visit the North Korean capital, Pyongyang, this year, they said.

TRT World's Mohsin Mughal explains what to expect next in inter-Korean relations.

An historic summit

North Korea’s Kim Jong-un thanked his South Korean counterpart Moon Jae-in for greeting him at a "historic place" ahead of their meeting. As the two leaders shook hands across the demarcation line that divides the rivals, Kim said that his heart "keeps throbbing."

Moon replied to Kim's thanks by saying that the North Korean leader made a "very courageous decision" to come to the South.

Moon then invited Kim to cross into the South, and after he did so, Kim invited Moon to cross into the North, which he did.

Those small steps must be seen in the context of the last year — when the United States, its ally South Korea and the North seemed at times to be on the verge of nuclear war as the North unleashed a torrent of weapons tests — but also in light of the long, destructive history of the rival Koreas, who fought one of the 20th century's bloodiest conflicts and even today occupy a divided peninsula that's still technically in a state of war.

TRT World's Oliver Whitfield-Miocic has more. 

US says 'hopeful that talks will achieve progress'

The White House said in a statement that it is "hopeful that talks will achieve progress toward a future of peace and prosperity for the entire Korean Peninsula. ... (and) looks forward to continuing robust discussions in preparation for the planned meeting between President Donald Trump and Kim Jong-un in the coming weeks."

Moon, a liberal whose election last year ended a decade of conservative rule in Seoul, will be looking to make some headway on the North's nuclear programme in advance of a planned summit in several weeks between Kim and Trump.

Kim, the third member of his family to rule his nation with absolute power, is eager, both in this meeting and in the Trump talks, to talk about the nearly 30,000 heavily armed US troops stationed in South Korea and the lack of a formal peace treaty ending the Korea War — two factors, the North says, that make nuclear weapons necessary.

North Korea may also be looking to use whatever happens in the talks with Moon to set up the Trump summit, which it may see as a way to legitimise its declared status as a nuclear power.

Carefully choreographed, but also off script

Friday's summit was planned to the last detail. 

Thousands of journalists were kept in a huge conference center well away from the summit, except for a small group of tightly-controlled pool reporters at the border. 

Moon stood near the Koreas' dividing line, moving forward the moment he glimpsed Kim, dressed in dark, Mao-style suit, appearing in front of a building on the northern side. 

They shook hands with the borderline between them. 

After each briefly crossed into the other's country, they then took a ceremonial photo facing the North and then another photo facing the South.

It's the first time a member of the ruling Kim dynasty has crossed over to the southern side of the Demilitarised Zone since the Korean War ended in 1953. 

The North Korean leader signed a guest book in the South's Peace House before the two leaders met for a private discussion.

"A new history starts now. An age of peace, from the starting point of history," Kim wrote in Korean in the book, dating and signing the entry.

Two fifth-grade students from the Daesongdong Elementary School, the only South Korean school within the DMZ, greeted the leaders and gave the Kim flowers. 

Kim and Moon then saluted an honour guard and military band, and Moon introduced Kim to South Korean government officials. 

Kim returned the favour with the North Korean officials accompanying him. 

They then took a photo inside the Peace House, where the summit took place, in front of a painting of South Korea's Bukhan Mountain, which towers over the South Korean Blue House presidential mansion.

Source: AP