Brunei’s monarch welcomed the historic developments on the Korean peninsula, where leaders of both North and South Korea signed a declaration committing to complete denuclearisation, paving the way for a permanent peace treaty.

Speaking during a leaders’ working dinner at the ASEAN Summit in Singapore, His Majesty the Sultan and Yang Di-Pertuan of Brunei Darussalam said he looked forward to continued dialogue between both parties.

Southeast Asian leaders also cautiously greeted the news, saying they reiterated their support for the  “irreversible denuclearisation of the Korean Peninsula” and welcomed plans for the North’s leader Kim Jong Un to meet US President Donald Trump in the coming weeks.

ASEAN leaders pose for a group photograph during the opening of the 32nd ASEAN (Association of Southeast Asian Nations) Summit in Singapore on April 28, 2018. AFP PHOTO/ Roslan Rahman

Pyongyang has also said they will refrain from further nuclear and missile tests during this period.

A ‘new milestone’

In a historic meeting laden with symbolism, the leaders of North and South Korea signed the Panmunjom Declaration on Friday, following a day that began with an emotional handshake over the Military Demarcation Line that splits their countries.

North Korea’s leader Kim Jong Un (L) shakes hands with South Korea’s President Moon Jae-in (R) at the Military Demarcation Line that divides their countries ahead of their summit at the truce village of Panmunjom on April 27, 2018. AFP PHOTO/Korea Summit Press Pool

Kim Jong Un and the South Korea’s President Moon Jae-in embraced after signing the document, agreeing to seek a permanent end to the Korean War this year, 65 years after hostilities ended in an armistice rather than a peace treaty.

Moon will visit Pyongyang in “the fall”, the two leaders said, pledging to hold “regular meetings and direct telephone conversations”.

The Panmunjom Declaration capped an extraordinary day, unthinkable only months ago as the nuclear-armed North carried out a series of missile launches and its sixth atomic blast.

Analysts warned that while the meeting was a good first step, similar promises had been made before and much remained to be done to resolve the issue of the North’s atomic arsenal.

In coming weeks, Kim is due to hold a much-anticipated meeting with US President Donald Trump — who has demanded Pyongyang give up its weapons — that will be crucial in shaping progress.

Kim and Trump had traded personal insults and threats of war, sending tensions soaring before Moon seized on the Winter Olympics to broker dialogue, beginning a dizzying whirl of diplomacy that led to Friday’s meeting in the Demilitarised Zone.

‘Filled with emotion’

Kim said he was “filled with emotion” after stepping over the concrete blocks that mark the border, making him the first Northern leader to set foot in the South since the Korean War ceasefire in 1953.

The truce village of Panmunjom was the “symbol of heart-wrenching division”, Kim said, but if it became “a symbol of peace, the North and South that have one blood, one language, one history and one culture, will return to becoming one”.

He pledged the two Koreas would ensure they did not “repeat the unfortunate history in which past inter-Korea agreements… fizzled out after beginning”.

North Korea’s leader Kim Jong Un (L) and South Korea’s President Moon Jae-in (R) hug during a signing ceremony near the end of their historic summit at the truce village of Panmunjom on April 27, 2018. AFP PHOTO/Korea Summit Press Pool

In the declaration, the two sides said they would seek meetings this year with the US and possibly China — both parties to the 1953 ceasefire — “with a view to declaring an end to the war, turning the armistice into a peace treaty, and establishing a permanent and solid peace regime”.

But agreeing a treaty to formally close the conflict will be complicated — both Seoul and Pyongyang claim sovereignty over the whole Korean peninsula.

The two previous Korean summits in 2000 and 2007, both in Pyongyang, also ended with displays of affection and similar pledges, but the agreements ultimately came to naught.

Moon welcomed the North’s announcement of a moratorium on nuclear testing and long-range missile launches as “very significant”, calling it “an important step towards complete denuclearisation”.

But how much progress was made on the nuclear issue remained unclear.

Affirming a commitment to denuclearisation of the Korean peninsula was “not new”, said MIT political science professor Vipin Narang, “historic summit notwithstanding”.

But he added: “Reaffirming it is better than not reaffirming it.”

Paul Haenle of the Carnegie-Tsinghua Center in Beijing said it was “really just the first step in broader diplomatic efforts”.

“Similar to a game of chess, this move opens up a series of possible developments but in many ways, the hard work really begins now.” 

— With reporting from AFP