April 28, 2018 / 4:42 AM / 25 days ago

North Korean media hails summit as Trump presses for full denuclearisation

SEOUL, April 28 (Reuters) - North Korea’s state news agency on Saturday called the inter-Korean summit a turning point for the Korean peninsula, while U.S. President Donald Trump said he would maintain sanctions pressure on Pyongyang ahead of his own unprecedented meeting with Kim Jong Un.

The North’s KCNA news agency separately released the joint statement North Korean leader Kim Jong Un and South Korean President Moon Jae-in presented on Friday after the first summit in more than a decade between the two Koreas.

Kim and Moon had pledged to work for “complete denuclearisation” of the Korean peninsula and agreed on a common goal of a “nuclear-free” peninsula.

“At the talks both sides had a candid and open-hearted exchange of views on the matters of mutual concern including the issues of improving the north-south relations, ensuring peace on the Korean Peninsula and the denuclearisation of the peninsula,” KCNA said, reporting that the night wrapped up with a dinner with an “amicable atmosphere overflowing with feelings of blood relatives.”

A day after the meeting between Kim and Moon produced dramatic images and a sweeping declaration of goodwill, South Korean media were replaying striking scenes of the two leaders and North Korea’s main state newspaper published a multi-page spread with photos from the visit.

Most of the specific commitments outlined in the official declaration focused on inter-Korean relations and did not clear up the question of whether Pyongyang is willing to give up its arsenal of nuclear weapons and ballistic missiles.

In their coverage of the summit, North Korean state media made rare mentions of the denuclearisation discussion, but did not go into specifics, instead highlighting the broad themes of peace, prosperity, and Korean unity.

The declaration earned guarded but optimistic praise from world leaders, including Trump, who said that only time would tell, but that he did not think Kim was “playing.”

“It’s never gone this far. This enthusiasm for them wanting to make a deal ... We are going to hopefully make a deal.”

Still, Trump told reporters, he would maintain pressure on North Korea and “not repeat the mistakes of past administrations.”

Speaking on Saturday at a televised news conference in Sydney, Australian prime minister Malcolm Turnbull praised Trump’s negotiations on North Korea and said he helped bring the two Korean leaders together.

“I have given him that credit because Donald Trump has taken a very, very strong, hard line on the denuclearisation issue and he has been able to bring in the support of the global community and, in particular, China,” Turnbull said. “North Korea’s economic relationship is overwhelmingly with China. And so China’s preparedness to impose those sanctions has been the critical change that has put the economic pressure on North Korea.”

Turnbull said the pressure from China and the U.S. had brought Kim to the point of denuclearising the Korean peninsula.

“What we’ve now got to do is not relent on the economic pressure until that goal is achieved,” he said.

Australia will send a military aircraft to monitor North Korean vessels suspected of transferring illicit goods in defiance of U.N. sanctions, he said.

An editorial in the official China Daily on Saturday said denuclearisation could end hostilities between the two sides and “usher in a new era of development” on the peninsula, but noted Friday’s declaration lacked a plan for achieving the goal.

“The denuclearisation of the peninsula, written into the Panmunjom Declaration, is only a prospect with no specific plan. That is because such specifics can be reached only between the US and North Korea, and South Korea has only limited authority to bargain,” it said. (Reporting by Christine Kim in SEOUL, Ben Blanchard in BEIJING, and Alison Bevege in SYDNEY; Editing by Gerry Doyle)

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