Pope Francis has praised the agreement signed by North and South Korean leaders aimed at reconciliation and beginning denuclearisation, praying that the peace process on the peninsula would continue.
“I accompany with prayer the positive success of the Inter-Korean summit last Friday and the courageous commitment assumed by the leaders of the two parts to carry out a path of sincere dialogue for a Korean Peninsula free of nuclear weapons,” the pope said on Sunday 29 April.
North Korea and South Korea promised on Friday to work together to achieve a “complete denuclearisation” of the Korean peninsula.
The announcement was made by the North Korean leader Kim Jong-un and President Moon Jae-in of South Korea after historic talks at the border between North and South. Kim Jong-un became the first North Korean leader to step foot in South Korea since the end of the 1950-53 Korean war and joined President Moon to herald what they described as “a new age of peace”.
The two leaders agreed to strive for a peace treaty to formally end the 1950-53 war, which was halted by an armistice. China and the United States would also have to be party to an agreement marking the formal end of the war.
The statement issued after the talks between the leaders said: “The South and the North affirmed their mutual goal of realising a nuclear-free Korean peninsula through complete denuclearisation.
“The South and the North reaffirmed their agreement of non-aggression that they will not use any form of force against each other and agreed to strictly abide by the agreement. The South and the North agreed to gradually realise arms reduction when their military tension is removed and trust is practically established.”
The statement was named the Panmunjon Declaration, after the village in the Demilitarised Zone (DMZ) between the two Koreas that has been known as the “truce village” since 1953, when it was the location of the signing of the Korean Armistice Agreement.
Mr Kim and Mr Moon also undertook to push for a resumption of reunions for families separated by the war and to establish a joint liaison office in the border region.
In the South Korean capital, Seoul, the day before the Panmunjon meeting, Cardinal Andrea Yeom, Archbishop of Seoul and Apostolic Administrator of the North Korean capital Pyongyang, celebrated a Mass for Reconciliation, praying for a successful outcome of today’s summit.
“This evening we are celebrating the Holy Mass for the reconciliation of our people divided between the South and the North,” he said in his homily. “The faithful of our Diocese have never failed to gather together at this Cathedral of Myeong-dong to celebrate this Holy Mass regularly at 7 o’clock every Tuesday evening over the past 23 years .. we [celebrated] with the additional intention to keep in our heart and pray for those 57 parishes which had been active in the North before the country was divided.”
The cardinal continued: “I sincerely thank all those authorities who have made painstaking efforts to realise this historic meeting and dialogue of the top leaders of the South and the North. In addition, I wish that God may bless and guide all those who will be engaged in eliminating nuclear weapons and establishing true peace in this land, thereby promoting the peace in the world.”
The meeting of Mr Kim and Mr Moon lays the groundwork for talks between US President Donald Trump and Mr Kim which could take place in May or June.
Over the past year North Korea intensified its programme of nuclear and ballistic missile testing, prompting Mr Trump to warn that the US would “totally destroy” North Korea if it threatened the United States. On a visit to Seoul in November last year, he toned down his rhetoric but warned North Korea: “do not underestimate us and do not try us”.
Today he tweeted: “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!”
Early this morning in Peace House, a modern three-storey building where the formal talks took place, Mr Kim said: “We could have a very good agreement but what’s important is that it’s implemented because if it’s not implemented then we will let more people down.”
Mr Moon replied that the people of the South and North and the rest of the world were watching so there was “a burden on our shoulders”.
He went on: “Chairman Kim, you crossed a border for the first time and at that very moment Panmunjom has become a symbol of peace instead of a symbol of division. You have made today’s moment possible. I thank you very much for your courage.” The press was then asked to leave the room, while the leaders conducted a session that lasted for an hour and 40 minutes.
Hours before the summit Mr Trump shared new details about a visit by Mike Pompeo — sworn in yesterday as his new secretary of state — to Pyongyang over Easter. He had not expected to meet Mr Kim, Mr Trump said, but they had spoken for more than an hour and “had a great meeting”. The White House released pictures of the encounter last night.
PICTURE: Moon Jae-In and Kim Jong-Un, Apr 27, 2018 : South Korean President Moon Jae-In (R) and North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un pose before their inter-Korean summit at the Peace House at the south side of the truce village of Panmunjom in the demilitarised zone (DMZ) separating the two Koreas in Paju, north of Seoul, South Korea ©PA