Thursday, June 15, 2000,
Chandigarh, India


M A I N   N E W S

Koreas sign agreement

PYONGYANG, June 14 (Reuters) — South Korean President Kim Dae-Jung today declared that his landmark summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong-II aimed at easing half a century of cold war tensions on the divided peninsula had been a success.

“I hereby report that the summit talks have been successful...I give my deepest respect to Mr Kim Jong-II and the North Korean people for achieving this successful outcome,” Mr Kim said in remarks broadcast from a banquet that he hosted in Pyongyang. The two leaders, meeting at the first summit between the two countries since they were separated in 1948, had been due to sign a wide-ranging agreement at 9 pm (1200 GMT) aimed at building confidence between the estranged neighbours.

South Korean television station MBC and the Yonhap news agency reported that the agreement had in fact been signed, but there was no official confirmation.

Officials in Seoul said the agreement would cover reconciliation and eventual unification, relaxation of tensions, the reunion of divided families and exchanges in economic, social, cultural and other fields.

The agreement was hammered out at an afternoon of talks between the leaders of two countries that have been technically at war for half a century and that have repeatedly failed to put behind them a legacy of confrontation and mistrust.

But the South Korean leader, who had earlier admitted to having been overwhelmed by the warmth of his welcome in Pyongyang, today said he hoped the summit marked a new beginning. The two Koreas have been on the verge of breakthroughs in the past — agreeing to a joint declaration in 1972 and signing non-aggression treaties in 1991 — only to lapse back into sullen confrontation that spilled over into occasional clashes.

Earlier, Mr Kim Dae-Jung told his northern namesake that unification had to be their ultimate task, according to his spokesman, who was quoted by South Korean reporters.

“Now we are in the knowledge and information era, rather than one in which territory and population are of utmost importance. If our people concentrate our energies together, we will push our nation into the first rank of countries in the world,” he was quoted as saying.

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