In a dramatic moment, North Korean leader Kim Jong-un stepped across the militarized border and into South Korea Friday morning (local time); he then smiled and symbolically shook hands with South Korean leader Moon Jae-in. The astonishing move, hard to conceive of just months ago, makes Kim the first North Korean leader to set foot in South Korea since the end of the Korean War in 1953. After the pair took a moment making small talk and posing photographs, Kim led Moon by the hand across the border several steps back into North Korea.
The moment will be one of many during the historic summit rife with symbolism and subject to intense scrutiny. On the table during the meeting is the question of nuclear disarmament and outlining a path to peace between north and south. “I hope we can have open-minded talks on issues of concern and produce good results, not the kind of results we saw in the past that were not implemented and made us start from scratch again,” Kim said during the opening remarks of the talks.
It remains to be seen how far Kim is willing to reduce his nuclear arsenal and if the other looming partner in the negotiation, the U.S., will consider reducing sanctions with anything less than full disarmament. Kim’s exact endgame also remains opaque after years of nuclear saber-rattling its southern neighbor and the West. The talks are seen as a precursor to the tentatively scheduled summit between Trump and Kim, following former CIA Director Mike Pompeo’s trip to North Korea earlier this month.
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