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Koreas Agree to Work Toward Peace Treaty

A North Korean soldier looks at the South side at the border village of Panmunjom in the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ) dividing North and South on Thursday.
Kim Jae-Hwan / AFP/Getty Images
AFP/Getty Images
A North Korean soldier looks at the South side at the border village of Panmunjom in the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ) dividing North and South on Thursday.

North and South Korea made a historic pledge Thursday to move toward a formal peace treaty to replace a cease-fire that has been in place since 1953, when the two sides halted hostilities in a bitter three-year conflict.

In a joint statement, North Korean leader Kim Jong Il and South Korean President Roh Moo-hyun "agreed to closely cooperate to end military hostility and ensure peace and easing of tension on the Korean peninsula."

"The South and North shared the view that they should end the current armistice regime and establish a permanent peace regime," the pact said.

The agreement, which capped a three-day summit between the two leaders, 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.

Substantive progress on any peace treaty, however, 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.

The two leaders "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," according to the statement.

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 before the two shared a champagne toast.

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 include China, Japan, Russia and South Korea.

The fast progress in the nuclear standoff has prompted Roh to push forward on peace efforts. But the Koreas accord Thursday 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 arms talks "for the solution of the nuclear issue on the Korean peninsula."

The two Koreas said they would hold "frequent" summits, although no timing for any future such encounters was given. Instead, the Koreas scheduled meetings between their defense and prime 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.

From NPR reports and The Associated Press

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