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IN THE NEWS - North and South Korean Leaders Promise to Work for Peace, Economic Cooperation

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This is IN THE NEWS in VOA Special English.

The leaders of North and South Korea met this week. It was the first such meeting in seven years, and only the second since Korea was divided in nineteen fifty-three.

South Korean President Roh Moo-hyun, left, shakes hands with North Korean leader Kim Jong Il after exchanging a joint reconciliation pact in Pyongyang, North Korea.
South Korean President Roh Moo-hyun, left, shakes hands with North Korean leader Kim Jong Il after exchanging a joint reconciliation pact in Pyongyang, North Korea.

South Korean President Roh Moo-hyun and North Korea's Kim Jong Il ended three days of talks in Pyongyang on Thursday. They signed a joint declaration to support peace and economic growth on the Korean peninsula.

It says the South and the North will closely cooperate to end military hostilities and ease tensions. The two Koreas have been increasingly cooperative, but technically they are still at war.

The North invaded the South in nineteen fifty. A truce halted military action three years later. But it was never replaced with an official peace treaty.

The two leaders agreed to push for a treaty to declare an end to the war. They called for a three- or four-party meeting to reach that goal. China and the United States also fought in the Korean War. The United States led United Nations forces in Korea.

The eight-point declaration also includes a promise by the South and the North to cooperate in efforts to settle the nuclear issue on the Korean peninsula. The two sides say they will work to smoothly put into effect a June declaration and a February agreement reached in six-nation talks.

South Korean officials confirmed this is the first time Kim Jong Il has personally signed a document relating to the effort to end his nuclear weapons programs.

United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon praised the agreement as an important step for improving peace and security on the Korean peninsula.

The Bush administration said the six-party talks will be an important part of efforts to change the relationship between North Korea and the world.

Earlier this week, North Korea agreed to disable its main nuclear centers and document all of its programs by the end of the year. The agreement came in the six-party talks with China, South Korea, Japan, Russia and the United States. They are offering North Korea financial, diplomatic, security and energy aid if it gives up its nuclear arms program.

The North and South Korean leaders also agreed to expand economic ties. The two countries have fought several naval clashes over a sea border established by the United Nations west of the Korean peninsula. The leaders called for the recognition of a common fishing area in an effort to reduce tensions.

Their declaration also calls for the two Koreas to begin transporting goods by rail between Munsan in the South and Bongdong in the North. And they will begin a project to increase foreign visitors to North Korea's Mount Baekdu.

President Roh did not accept an invitation from Kim Jong Il to stay an extra day in Pyongyang. But they said they plan to meet again in the future, and their governments are to hold more talks next month. President Roh leaves office in February.

And that's IN THE NEWS in VOA Special English, written by Brianna Blake. I'm Steve Ember.

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