Kim Jong-un and South Korean president Moon Jae-in 'agree to the complete denuclearisation' of region

North Korean leader Kim Jong-un shakes hands with South Korean president Moon Jae In. Credit: AP/Press Association Images
  • Video report by ITV News China Correspondent Debi Edward

North Korean leader Kim Jong-un and his South Korean counterpart have agreed to the complete denuclearisation of the Korean Peninsula, president Moon Jae-in has said.

The two leaders agreed a framework for a peace treaty to end the Korean War, ITV News China Correspondent Debi Edward reports.

She said the South Korean president wants the Demilitarised Zone (DMZ) to become "a peaceful region" and hopes "the two nations can be reunified".

The leaders also agreed to carry out the disarmament in a "phased manner".

The US president was among those welcoming the news in a series of tweets - and also claimed he should be partially credited for helping bring about the rapprochement.

He said "only time will tell" if the deal will hold but wrote: "The United States, and all of its GREAT people, should be very proud of what is now taking place in Korea!

“When I began, people were saying that was an impossibility,” Mr Trump added during an appearance with US athletes who participated in this year’s Winter Olympics in South Korea.

“They said there were two alternatives: Let them have what they have, or go to war. And now we have a much better alternative than anybody thought even possible.”

The historic Korean summit saw Kim Jong-un cross over the world’s most heavily armed border to greet his rival, president Moon Jae-in.

After Mr Kim had crossed the border south, he invited Mr Moon to step briefly north with him before they returned to the southern side for talks on North Korea’s nuclear weapons.

It is the first time a North Korean leader has crossed over to the southern side of the DMZ since the Korean War ended in 1953.

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

The moment must also be viewed 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 is still technically in a state of war.

North Korea’s nuclear and missile tests last year likely put it on the threshold of becoming a legitimate nuclear power. North Korea claims it has already risen to that level.

But it was all smiles on Friday as Mr Moon grasped Mr Kim’s hand and led him along an blindingly red carpet into South Korean territory, where school children placed flowers around their necks and an honour guard stood at attention for inspection.

“I feel like I’m firing a flare at the starting line in the moment of (the two Koreas) writing a new history in North-South relations, peace and prosperity,” Mr Kim told Mr Moon as they sat at a table, its precise dimension of 2018 millimetres separating them, to begin their closed-door talks.

The two leaders posed for photographs together Credit: AP

Mr Kim’s news agency said that the leader would “open-heartedly” discuss with Mr Moon “all the issues arising in improving inter-Korean relations and achieving peace, prosperity and reunification of the Korean peninsula” in a “historic” summit.

The greeting of the two leaders was planned to the last detail.

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

Their discussions will be expected to focus on whether the North can be persuaded to give up its nuclear bombs (Korea Broadcasting System/AP)

Expectations were generally low about the two leaders reaching an agreement given that past so-called breakthroughs on North Korea’s weapons have collapsed amid acrimonious charges of cheating and bad faith.

Skeptics of engagement have long said that the North often turns to interminable rounds of diplomacy meant to ease the pain of sanctions — giving it time to perfect its weapons and win aid for unfulfilled nuclear promises.

The leaders posed for photographs to camera crews on both sides of the border. Credit: AP

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

Mr 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.

The leaders walk together at the border village of Panmunjom in the Demilitarised Zone (Korea Summit Press Pool/AP)

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

Seoul and Washington will be pushing for any freeze to be accompanied by rigorous and unfettered outside inspections of the North’s nuclear facilities, since past deals have crumbled because of North Korea’s unwillingness to open up to snooping foreigners.

Mr Kim had reportedly said that he would not need nuclear weapons if his government’s security could be guaranteed and external threats were removed.