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2 Koreas sign peace and economic cooperation pact at second-ever summit

2 Koreas sign peace and economic cooperation pact at second-ever summit
SEOUL, South Korea (AP) — The leaders of North and South Korea pledged today to seek a peace treaty to replace the Korean War’s 1953 cease-fire and expand projects to reduce tension across the world’s last Cold War frontier.
The pact came a day after a deal at China-hosted arms talks among North Korea, the U.S. and other regional powers, in which Pyongyang promised to disable its main nuclear facilities and fully declare its nuclear programs by Dec. 31.
The move would be the biggest step North Korea has taken to scale back its nuclear ambitions after decades of seeking to develop the world’s deadliest weapons. President Bush hailed it as a key for “peace and prosperity” in northeast Asia.
The bilateral agreement capped three days of meetings in the North Korean capital, Pyongyang, between North Korean leader Kim Jong Il and South Korean President Roh Moo-hyun. They “agreed to closely cooperate to end military hostility and ensure peace and easing of tension on the Korean peninsula,” according to a joint statement.
Substantive progress on any peace treaty would require the participation of the U.S. and China, which also fought in the conflict. South Korea never signed the 1953 armistice ending the war.
After signing the deal, Kim and Roh shook hands and posed for cameras. Roh then took Kim’s right hand in his left and raised both their arms in the air like prizefighters, before sharing a champagne toast.
“The South and North shared the view that they should end the current armistice regime and establish a permanent peace regime,” the pact said.
They also “agreed to cooperate to push for the issue of declaring the end” of the Korean War by staging a meeting of the “three or four heads of related states.”
China, a key player in international efforts to dismantle North Korea’s nuclear program, said the landmark summit agreement would aid regional peace and stability.
“China consistently supports efforts by the North and South to improve bilateral relations and realize reconciliation and cooperation through dialogue,” said Foreign Ministry spokesman Liu Jianchao in a statement on the ministry’s official Web site.
Japanese Prime Minister Yasuo Fukuda also welcomed North Korea’s agreement to disable its main nuclear complex by year’s end, but his party said sanctions against Pyongyang should continue for at least another six months because it has yet to meet its commitments.
Bush said last month that he is willing to formally end the Korean War, but insisted that it could only happen after Pyongyang’s total nuclear disarmament.
Pyongyang shut down its sole operating reactor at Yongbyon in July after the U.S. reversed its hard-line policy against the regime, the first concrete progress from years of talks that also have included China, Japan, Russia and South Korea.
The fast progress in the nuclear standoff has prompted Roh to push forward on peace efforts. The accord signed today cited the nuclear issue in a single sentence, saying the North and South would make “joint efforts to ensure the smooth implementation” of previous accords from the six-nation talks “for the solution of the nuclear issue on the Korean peninsula.”
At a farewell lunch for Roh, the North’s leader said he has no health problems, dismissing reports he was suffering from a range of ailments. South Korea’s spy agency says Kim has chronic heart disease and diabetes but that they are not serious enough to affect his public activity.
“South Korean media reported that I have diabetes and even heart disease, but the fact is that is not the case at all,” he said.
The 65-year-old Kim’s health is a focus of intense attention because his fate is believed to be closely tied to that of the totalitarian nation that he inherited from his father Kim Il Sung in communism’s first hereditary transfer of power.
The two Koreas said they would hold “frequent” summits, although no timing for any future such encounter was given. Instead, the Koreas scheduled meetings between their prime ministers and defense ministers in coming months to build on progress from this week’s summit.
The Koreas also pledged to boost economic ties, open regular cargo railway service along restored tracks crossing the Demilitarized Zone and create a joint fishing zone on their disputed sea frontier. They will also open an air corridor between Seoul and North Korea’s tallest peak, Mount Paektu, for tours to the site that is sacred to all Koreans.
In an issue deeply emotional to many aging Koreans, the sides also agreed to increase reunions between relatives separated by the border and regularly hold such meetings. Since the first summit between the Koreas in June 2000, some 18,000 Koreans from separated families have met through face-to-face or video reunions.
The North and South also agreed that a joint cheering squad for the Koreas would travel to next year’s Beijing Olympics via train. The countries have sought to field a joint team at international sporting events, but have differed over how athletes would be chosen.
Roh, whose term ends in February, has been unpopular due to perceptions that he mismanaged economic policies. He had faced criticism from conservatives at home who said staging the summit just months before South Korea’s December presidential election amounted to a political ploy.
North Korea has also made clear it does not want the conservatives — who now hold massive leads in opinion polls — to take office.
South Korea’s main opposition Grand National Party called the declaration “insufficient.”
“It’s very regrettable that the South and North Korean leaders didn’t take any substantial measures or show their firm commitment to nuclear dismantlement and peace on the Korean peninsula, which have been the most important issue of our nationals and the world,” it said.

Associated Press writers Burt Herman, Hyung-jin Kim and Kwang-tae Kim contributed to this report.
Published in The Messenger on 10.04.07

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