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Seoul, Pyongyang hopeful after signature of joint declaration

South Korean President Moon Jae-in, left, and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un shakes hands after signing the documents at the Paekhwawon State Guesthouse in Pyongyang, North Korea, on Sept. 19, 2018. (Pyongyang Press Corps Pool via AP)

SEOUL -- South Korean President Moon Jae-in and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un signed the "Pyongyang Joint Declaration" on the morning of Sept. 19, during the second day of talks between the two Koreas in the North's capital.

After an official signing ceremony, Kim and Moon held a joint press conference. According to the press corps in Pyongyang, the two leaders met one-on-one for roughly an hour on Sept. 19.

The main topics covered at the North-South summit this time were threefold: improving and developing the relationship between the two countries; intermediating and promoting talks between North Korea and the United States toward denuclearization; and easing military tensions between the North and South to eliminate the threat of war between the two Koreas.

Kim disclosed that he promised to "work actively to realize the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula," and to visit Seoul in the near future. Moon, meanwhile, said, "For the first time, the South and the North agreed on a method for denuclearization. We've made a very significant achievement."

In the Joint Declaration, the North agreed to permanently dismantle the Seohae missile engine test site in the country's northeast, and allow for visits by expert inspectors from countries concerned. Moreover, the North indicated that if the U.S. takes similar steps, it is prepared to take additional measures such as permanently dismantling its nuclear facility in Nyongbyon County.

In a press conference held in Seoul on the morning of Sept. 19, Yoon Young-chan, senior secretary to the president for public communication, said that in the afternoon of the first day of the summit on Sept. 18, Kim and Moon along with officials from both countries met for two hours. "It was longer (than planned). But it was a candid and sincere dialogue about the three issues at hand," Yoon said.

President Moon also plans to have lunch at a famous cold noodle restaurant in Pyongyang before visiting North Korea's largest fine arts production company. The firm has constructed giant bronze statues abroad, and became the target of U.N. sanctions in August 2017 for being a means for the North to earn foreign currency. "President Moon is only going to view the artwork," said Yoon, clarifying that there were no problems.

A photo of Kim embracing Moon upon the latter's arrival at Pyongyang airport from Seoul made the front page of the North's Rodong Sinmun, the Central Committee of the Workers' Party of Korea's newspaper, on Sept. 19. The paper stated that the summit was "an enormous chance to start a new era of peace, prosperity and unification on the Korean Peninsula."

Additionally, the North government-run Korean Central News Agency commented, "After their second summit this year, Chairman Kim and President Moon had high praise for the positive and robust current relationship between North and South," and added that the summit "was conducted with warmth and mutual understanding."

(Japanese original by Chiharu Shibue, Seoul Bureau)

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