North Korea's Kim Jong-un crosses to South Korea

In a historical meeting, the two leaders vowed to 'write a new chapter' in their peninsula's troubled history 

North Korea’s leader Kim Jong-un shakes hands with South Korea’s President Moon Jae-in
North Korea’s leader Kim Jong-un shakes hands with South Korea’s President Moon Jae-in

Kim Jong-un has become the first North Korean leader to set foot in South Korea by crossing the military line that has divided the peninsula since the end of the Korean war in 1953.

As they met, the South Korean leader Moon Jae-in and Kim shook hands at the border.  The leaders of North and South Korea vowed to “write a new chapter” in their peninsula’s troubled history at the start of a summit.

Kim said he hoped for "frank" discussion in a warm opening exchange.

Just months ago North Korean rhetoric was warlike, but now they may discuss a peace treaty and nuclear weapons.

In an unexpected move, Kim invited the South Korean president to step briefly across the demarcation line into North Korea, before the pair stepped back into South Korea - all the while holding hands.

The leaders were met by an honour guard in traditional costume on the South Korean side. The pair then walked to the Peace House in Panmunjom, a military compound in the demilitarised zone (DMZ) between the two countries.

"A new history begins now - at the starting point of history and the era of peace," read the message Kim wrote in a guestbook.

Much of what the summit will focus on has been agreed in advance, but many analysts remain deeply sceptical about the North's apparent enthusiasm for engagement.

Talks will address North Korea's controversial nuclear weapons programme.

The Korean summit is seen as a prelude to a proposed meeting between Kim and US President Trump, an unprecedented move as no sitting US president has met with a North Korean leader.

More substantive talks got under way behind closed doors in a room that was specially refurbished in anticipation of Kim’s visit. The two leaders sat exactly 2,018 millimetres apart – in a nod to the year of their historic summit – on opposite sides of a specially designed table with gentle, rounded edges. They sat on chairs with backrests that feature a Korean peninsula design.

Earlier a North Korean security team conducted a sweep for explosives and listening devices, as well as spraying what appeared to be disinfectant in the air, on the chairs and on the guest book, according to Reuters.

The summit will conclude with the leaders signing an agreement and delivering a joint statement before dinner. The banquet will be held on the South's side and the menu is as symbolic as the other rituals.

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