President Moon Jae-in said Tuesday that the US and North Korea have put an end to their hostile relations with the recent meeting of their leaders, who stepped back and forth over the Korean border on Sunday.
“Although they did not sign any document, their action was tantamount to a de facto declaration of an end to hostile relations and the beginning of a full-fledged peace era,” Moon said during a Cabinet meeting.
On Sunday, US President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un met at the truce village of Panmunjom in the Demilitarized Zone.
Trump, who was on a two-day state visit to Seoul, became the first sitting US president to set foot in North Korea as he and Kim walked side by side to cross the demarcation line.
Moon stressed the meeting’s political significance, saying that “it was the first time the leaders of the US and North Korea have held hands at the border since a cease-fire ending the Korean War was signed 66 years ago.”
“I believe that we will reap great fruits if we always remind ourselves of such facts, ruminate on the meaning and use it as a basis for the upcoming North Korea-US dialogue,” Moon said.
After holding a closed-door meeting for nearly an hour Sunday, Trump said the two countries agreed to restart working-level talks within the next two to three weeks.
During their first summit in Singapore last year, both sides agreed to rebuild relations and work toward denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula. But their nuclear talks reached a stalemate following a second summit in Vietnam in late February that fell apart after Trump rejected Kim’s calls for sanctions relief in return for dismantling the country’s main nuclear complex.
On his joint visit with Trump to the DMZ observation post Ouellette, Moon noted that it was meaningful how the two leaders stood at the heavily fortified site with no military uniforms or bulletproof vests.
He added that a US soldier had explained to Trump how the inter-Korean military agreement of Sept. 19, 2018 has helped to de-escalate border tensions to bring about the current peaceful situation.
Stressing the DMZ’s proximity to South Korea’s capital city, Moon said he told Trump that half of the population of 51 million live in Seoul and the nearby Gyeonggi Province, less than 40 kilometers away from the inter-Korean border.
“I had a chance to explain the positive effects of the Kaesong industrial park, which was visible to us, on the inter-Korean economy and security,” he added.
The industrial park is one of the cross-border economic projects that Moon hopes to reopen after international sanctions on Pyongyang are lifted.
He also highlighted Seoul’s role of a “facilitator” in the peace process on the Korean Peninsula.
“All of that was possible not only because of the trust between the leaders, but also because the military tensions between the two Koreas have greatly eased,” Moon said. “I would like to reiterate that the improvement of inter-Korean relations and progress of the North-US dialogue are in a virtuous cycle.”