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