Kim Jong-un, Moon Jae-in meet in historic inter-Korea Summit
They say big things start with small steps, and that indeed seems to be true for the two Koreas. On Friday, North Korean leader Kim Jong-un made history by crossing the world's most heavily armed border to meet rival South Korean President Moon Jae-in for talks on North Korea's nuclear weapons. President Moon Jae-in also set foot in the North before talks began.
The two leaders were handed flowers by two South Korean school children living in a village in the demilitarized zone. Walking on a red carpet, the two leaders were also met by a South Korean honor guard in historic costumes, and traditional Korean music beloved by both the North and the South. The meeting would be held in the jointly-controlled village of Panmunjom.
Kim Jong-un, the third member of his family to enjoy absolute power in North Korea, is the first member of the ruling dynasty to have crossed over to the southern side of the Demilitarized Zone (DMC) since the armistice of 1953.
Putting aside decades of hostility and hatred, Kim Jong-un and Moon Jae-in greeted the world holding hands and with smiles on their faces. The meeting, aimed at ending the decades-old Korean conflict, and easing tensions over North Korea's nuclear programme, comes just weeks before Kim's scheduled meeting with US President Trump. Denuclearization and exchanges between the Koreas are expected to be discussed.
However, beneath the choreographed surface of the historic event, tensions still loom large. Just days earlier, Kim had said that it would suspend nuclear and long-range missile tests, and dismantle its only known nuclear site, but many remain skeptical about Kim's intentions. Further, all previous so-called breakthroughs pertaining to North Korean weapons having collapsed, the summit will reveal whether peaceful negotiations are possible.
Technically, the rich, democratic South Korea and the impoverished North Korea are still at war as an armistice was reached in 1953, not a peace treaty. It is precisely this lack of a peace treaty, and the presence of nearly 30,000 heavily armed US troops stationed in South Korea which the North says forces it to develop and keep nuclear weapons.
The two Koreas are set to release a joint statement late on Friday. Many have pointed out that Kim Jong Un might be using the summit to set up a favourable position in his scheduled meeting with US President Trump a few weeks later. At the summit with Trump, the North might be looking to legitimize itself as a nuclear power.