SEOUL: The leaders of the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK) and the Republic of Korea (ROK) pledged yesterday to seek a peace treaty to formally end the Korean War and expand projects to reduce tension on the world's last Cold War frontier.
The Democratic People's Republic of Korea leader Kim Jong-il (right) and the Republic of Korea President Roh Moo-hyun smile during the farewell luncheon after they signed the joint statement in Pyongyang yesterday. [Reuters]
The announcement came a day after Pyongyang committed to an unprecedented step toward dismantling its nuclear weapons program.
DPRK leader Kim Jong-il and ROK President Roh Moo-hyun signed the agreement after three days of meetings in the DPRK capital, Pyongyang, in only the second such summit between the two sides.
The two Koreas "agreed to closely cooperate to end military hostility and ensure peace and easing of tension on the Korean Peninsula," according to their statement.
Substantive progress on any peace treaty would require the participation of the US and China, which also fought in the conflict.
After both leaders signed the latest agreement, they shook hands and posed for cameras. Roh then took Kim's right hand in his left and raised both their arms in the air like champion prizefighters before the two shared a champagne toast.
"The South and North shared the view that they should end the current armistice regime and establish a permanent peace regime," their pact said.
They also "agreed to cooperate to push for the issue of declaring the end" of the Korean War by staging a meeting of the "three or four heads of related states".
US President George W. Bush said last month he was willing to formally end the Korean War, but insisted it could only happen after Pyongyang's total nuclear disarmament.
The summit ended a day after an agreement between the DPRK and the US, along with other regional powers at China-hosted Six-Party Talks, where Pyongyang promised to disable its main nuclear facilities and fully declare its nuclear programs by December 31.
The Koreas' accord yesterday cited the nuclear issue only in a single sentence, saying the North and South would make "joint efforts to ensure the smooth implementation" of previous accords from the six-nation arms talks "for the solution of the nuclear issue on the Korean Peninsula".
The two Koreas also said they would hold "frequent" summits, although no timing for any future such encounters was given. Instead, the Koreas scheduled meetings between their defense and prime ministers in the coming months to build on progress from this week's summit.
The two sides also pledged to boost economic ties, open regular cargo railway services along restored tracks crossing the Demilitarized Zone and create a joint fishing zone on their disputed sea frontier.
In an issue deeply emotional to many aging Koreans, the two sides also agreed to increase reunions between relatives separated by the border and regularly hold such meetings.
Since the first summit between the Koreas in June 2000, some 18,000 Koreans from separated families have met through face-to-face or video reunions.
Also yesterday, the North and South agreed that a joint cheering squad for the two Koreas would travel to next year's Beijing Olympics via train. The countries have sought to field a joint team at international sporting events, but have differed over how athletes would be chosen.
Koh Yu-hwan, a professor at Seoul's Dongguk University, said the agreement marked a big step forward in bilateral relations.
"It laid a foundation to end the Cold War and establish a peace regime," he said.