Korea leaders commit to denuclearization in historic summit

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North Korea’s leader Kim Jong Un, right, talks with South Korea’s President Moon Jae-in at a bench on a bridge next to the military demarcation line at the truce village of Panmunjom on Friday, April 27, 2018. Korea Summit Press Pool / AFP
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North Korea’s leader Kim Jong Un, left and South Korea’s President Moon Jae-in hug during a signing ceremony near the end of their historic summit at the truce village of Panmunjom on Friday, April 27, 2018. (Korea Summit Press Pool / AFP)
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North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, center right, and South Korean President Moon Jae-in, center left, pose for the media during a meeting at the border village of Panmunjom in Demilitarized Zone on Friday, April 27. (Korea Summit Press Pool via AP)
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North Korea’s leader Kim Jong Un, left, shakes hands with South Korea's President Moon Jae-in at the Military Demarcation Line that divides their countries ahead of their meeting at the official summit Peace House building at the truce village of Panmunjom on Friday, April 27, 2018. (Korea Summit Press Pool / AFP)
Updated 27 April 2018
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Korea leaders commit to denuclearization in historic summit

  • The so-called Panmunjom Declaration capped an extraordinary day unthinkable only months ago, as the nuclear-armed North carried out a series of missile launches and its sixth atomic blast
  • The White House said it hoped the summit would “achieve progress toward a future of peace and prosperity for the entire Korean Peninsula”

GOYANG, South Korea: The leaders of North and South Korea agreed Friday to pursue a permanent peace and the complete denuclearization of the divided peninsula, as they embraced after a historic summit laden with symbolism.

In a day of bonhomie including a highly symbolic handshake over the Military Demarcation Line that divides the two countries, the pair issued a declaration on “the common goal of realizing, through complete denuclearization, a nuclear-free Korean peninsula.”

Upon signing the document, the two leaders shared a warm embrace, the culmination of a summit filled with smiles and displays of friendship in front of the world’s media.

They also agreed that they would this year seek a permanent end to the Korean War, 65 years after the hostilities ended in an armistice rather than a peace treaty.

Moon would visit Pyongyang in “the fall,” the two leaders said, also agreeing to hold “regular meetings and direct telephone conversations.”

The so-called Panmunjom Declaration capped an extraordinary day unthinkable only months ago, as the nuclear-armed North carried out a series of missile launches and its sixth atomic blast.

Kim said he was “filled with emotion” after stepping over the concrete blocks into the South, making him the first North Korean leader to set foot there since the shooting stopped in the Korean War.

At Kim’s impromptu invitation the two men briefly crossed hand-in-hand into the North before walking to the Peace House building on the southern side of the truce village of Panmunjom for the summit — only the third of its kind since hostilities ceased in 1953.

“I came here determined to send a starting signal at the threshold of a new history,” said Kim.

After the summit, he pledged that the two Koreas will ensure they did not “repeat the unfortunate history in which past inter-Korea agreements... fizzled out after beginning.”

The two previous Korean summits in 2000 and 2007, both of them in Pyongyang, also ended with displays of affection and similar pledges, but the agreements ultimately came to naught.

With the North’s atomic arsenal high on the agenda, South Korean President Moon Jae-in responded that the North’s announced moratorium on nuclear testing and long-range missile launches was “very significant.”

It was the highest-level encounter yet in a whirlwind of nuclear diplomacy and intended to pave the way for a much-anticipated encounter between Kim and US President Donald Trump.

 

 Last year Pyongyang carried out its sixth nuclear blast, by far its most powerful to date, and launched missiles capable of reaching the US mainland.

Its actions sent tensions soaring as Kim and Trump traded personal insults and threats of war.

Moon seized on the South’s Winter Olympics as an opportunity to broker dialogue between them and has said his meeting with Kim will serve to set up the summit between Pyongyang and Washington.

The White House said it hoped the summit would “achieve progress toward a future of peace and prosperity for the entire Korean Peninsula.”

After the historic meeting between the leaders of North Korea and South Korea, President Donald Trump tweeted "KOREAN WAR TO END".

Trump has demanded the North give up its weapons, and Washington is pressing for it to do so in a complete, verifiable and irreversible way.

Seoul had played down expectations before the summit, saying the North’s technological advances in its nuclear and missile programs made the summit “all the more difficult.”

Pyongyang is demanding as yet unspecified security guarantees to discuss its arsenal.

When Kim visited the North’s key backer Beijing last month in only his first foreign trip as leader, China’s state media cited him as saying that the issue could be resolved, as long as Seoul and Washington take “progressive and synchronous measures for the realization of peace.”

In the past, North Korean support for denuclearization of the “Korean peninsula” has been code for the removal of US troops from the South and the end of its nuclear umbrella over its security ally — prospects unthinkable in Washington.

Moon said he hoped they would have further meetings on both sides of the border, and Kim offered to visit Seoul “any time” he was invited.

After a morning session lasting an hour and 40 minutes, Kim crossed back to the North for lunch, a dozen security guards jogging alongside his limousine.

Before the afternoon session, Moon and Kim held a symbolic tree planting ceremony on the demarcation line.

The soil came from Mount Paektu, on the North’s border with China, and Mount Halla, on the South’s southern island of Jeju.

After signing the agreement, the leaders and their wives attended a banquet before Kim was to return to the North.

Decoder

Trump praises historic inter-Korea summit

US President Donald Trump on Friday praised the meeting of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un and South Korean President Moon Jae-in, acknowledging the historic summit even as he cast doubt over how long positive diplomacy may last. “After a furious year of missile launches and Nuclear testing, a historic meeting between North and South Korea is now taking place. Good things are happening, but only time will tell!” Trump wrote in a post on Twitter.


More US sanctions on Myanmar for rights abuses

Rohingya refugees queue at an aid relief distribution centre at the Balukhali refugee camp near Cox's Bazar on August 12, 2018. (AFP)
Updated 3 min 40 sec ago
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More US sanctions on Myanmar for rights abuses

  • The government refuses to recognize the Rohingya as a legitimate native ethnic minority and most Rohingya are denied citizenship and other rights
  • The Rohingya have long faced severe discrimination and were the target of violence in 2012 that killed hundreds and drove more than 140,000 people

WASHINGTON: The US Treasury on Friday slapped sanctions on members of the Myanmar security forces for their alleged role in violent campaigns against ethnic minorities across the troubled nation in Southeast Asia.
Myanmar security forces have engaged in ethnic cleansing, massacres, sexual assault, extrajudicial killings and other human rights abuses, said Sigal Mandelker, undersecretary for terrorism and financial intelligence. “Treasury is sanctioning units and leaders overseeing this horrific behavior as part of a broader US government strategy to hold accountable those responsible for such wide-scale human suffering.”
The Trump administration earlier imposed sanctions on the chief of Myanmar’s western military command, but has faced pressure from human rights groups and lawmakers to impose more sanctions on those involved in a crackdown that began in August 2017 in western Rakhine State where 700,000 members of the Muslim Rohingya minority fled brutal army operations.
The Rohingya have long faced severe discrimination and were the target of violence in 2012 that killed hundreds and drove more than 140,000 people — predominantly Rohingya — from their homes to camps for the internally displaced, where most remained until last year’s violence.
The government refuses to recognize the Rohingya as a legitimate native ethnic minority and most Rohingya are denied citizenship and other rights. Myanmar, however, has staunchly denied that its security forces have targeted civilians in so-called clearance operations in Rakhine State on Myanmar’s west coast.
Friday’s action sanctions four commanders with the Myanmar military and border guard police plus two military units for their alleged involvement in ethnic cleaning in Rakhine and other human rights abuses in Burma’s Kachin and Shan states. Those sanctioned are: military commanders Aung Kyaw Zaw, Khin Maung Soe, Khin Hlaing and Thura San Lwin; and members of the 33rd and 99th light infantry divisions.
The sanctions block any property they own within US jurisdiction and prohibit US citizens from engaging in transactions with them.