Kim Jong-un to walk across Korean border and plant tree with Moon Jae-in during historic meeting

Kim will be first North Korean leader to set foot on neighbour's soil since end of Korean War

Chris Baynes
Thursday 26 April 2018 10:17
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North Korean soldiers, centre, and South Korean soldiers, bottom, at the border village of Panmunjom in the Demilitarized Zone
North Korean soldiers, centre, and South Korean soldiers, bottom, at the border village of Panmunjom in the Demilitarized Zone

North Korean leader Kim Jong-un will plant a commemorative tree with South Korean president Moon Jae-in after walking across the border between the two countries for a historic summit on Friday.

The two leaders will also inspect a South Korean guard of honour before talks on the southern side of the uninhabited “truce village” of Panmunjom, Seoul said on Thursday.

Mr Kim will be the first North Korean leader to set foot in the south since the end of the Korean War in 1953.

It is hoped the talks, expected to focus on Pyongyang’s nuclear weapons programme, will ease decades of tension in the region and help to defuse what is arguably one of the world’s greatest security threats.

In a visit high on symbolism, Mr Kim will walk past the concrete slabs which form the countries’ military frontier to be greeted by his South Korean counterpart.

The two leaders will then walk together for about 10 minutes to a plaza where they will inspect Seoul’s guard of honour, said Mr Moon’s chief of staff, Im Jong-seok.

After signing a guestbook and posing for a photo together at Peace House, the venue for Friday’s summit, the two leaders will begin formal talks at 10.30 am local time (1.30am GMT).

Later, they will plant a pine tree on the border, using a mixture of soil from both counties’ mountains and water from their respective rivers.

Pines were beloved by ancient Koreans, who believed they brought peace and prosperity.

The tree the leaders will plant was sown in 1953, the year their two nations signed the armistice which ended the Korean War.

Engraved on a stone plaque for the pine will be the phrase “peace and prosperity are planted,” as well as the signatures of Mr Kim and Mr Moon.

After the tree-planting ceremony, the two will stroll together to a footbridge where a signpost for the military demarcation line stands, Mr Im said.

They will meet again in the afternoon and later attend a banquet, he added.

Mr Kim will be accompanied by nine top North Korean officials, including his influential sister Kim Yo-jong. It will be only his second visit to another country since he assumed power in 2011, following a secretive trip to China last month.

Mr Im said South Korea hoped Mr Kim’s wife, Ri Sol-ju, would also attend parts of Friday’s summit, but her attendance has not yet been confirmed.

It is not yet not clear how the leaders will announce the outcome of the summit.

Much depends, Mr Im said, on North Korea’s willingness to commit to denuclearisation.

Friday’s meeting and Mr Kim’s planned meeting with US president Donald Trump were arranged after North Korea signalled it was open to negotiating over the programme after a year of frequent nuclear and missile tests.

Last week Pyongyang said it was halting tests and shutting down it main nuclear test site ahead of the summits.

However, research by Chinese geologists suggests the mountain above the test site has collapsed, rendering it unsafe for further trials, in a development that sheds new light upon North Korea’s announcement.

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