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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Koreas Take First Step Toward Peace

SEOUL, South Korea -- The leaders of North and South Korea pledged Thursday to seek a peace treaty to formally end the Korean War and expand projects to reduce tension on the world's last Cold War frontier, a day after Pyongyang committed to an unprecedented step toward dismantling its nuclear weapons program.

North Korean leader Kim Jong Il and South Korean President Roh Moo-hyun signed the agreement after three days of meetings in the North Korean capital, Pyongyang, in the second-ever such summit between the countries.

The two Koreas "agreed to closely cooperate to end military hostility and ensure peace and easing of tension on the Korean peninsula," according to their statement.

Substantive progress on any peace treaty would require the participation of the United States and China, which also fought in the conflict. South Korea never signed the 1953 armistice ending the war.

After both leaders signed the agreement, they 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 champion prizefighters before sharing a champagne toast.

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

They also "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."

U.S. President George W. Bush said in September that he was willing to formally end the Korean War, but insisted that it could only happen after Pyongyang's total nuclear disarmament.

The summit ended a day after an agreement between North Korea and the United States along with other regional powers at China-hosted arms talks where 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 weapons, and Bush hailed it as a key for "peace and prosperity" in northeast Asia.

Pyongyang shut down its sole operating reactor at Yongbyon in July after the United States reversed its policy against the country, the first concrete progress from years of talks that also include China, Japan, Russia and South Korea.

The Korean accord Thursday cited the nuclear issue only 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."

South Korea's main opposition Grand National Party called the declaration "insufficient."

"It's very regrettable that the South and North Korean leaders didn't take any substantial measures or show their firm commitment to nuclear dismantlement and peace on the Korean peninsula, which have been the most important issue of our nationals and the world," the party said in a statement.