SEOUL - South Korea’s President Moon Jae In pledged on Tuesday (June 12) to write “new history” with North Korea, praising North Korean leader Kim Jong Un’s decision to hold a summit with the US President Donald Trump in Singapore.
However, he also expressed unease over Mr Trump's surprise announcement following his talks with Mr Kim that the US military would suspend some exercises with South Korea that the North regards as a threat to its security.
“The June 12 Sentosa Agreement will be recorded as a historic event that has helped break down the last remaining Cold War legacy on Earth,” Mr Moon said in a statement released by his office.
“Leaving dark days of war and conflict behind, we will write a new chapter of peace and cooperation,.
"We will be there together with North Korea along the way.”
Mr Moon has made great efforts playing the role of mediator to bring the Cold War foes back to dialogue. Earlier on Tuesday he said at a Cabinet meeting he "hardly slept last night" in anticipation of the historic meeting.
In his statement Mr Moon praised Mr Trump and Mr Kim for their “courage and determination” not to settle for “that outdated and familiar reality but to take a daring step towards change”. He praised Trump for achieving “a feat that no one else has ever delivered”, while Kim would be remembered as “a leader who made a historic moment by taking the first bold step toward the world”.
Mr Moon however cautioned that this was “just a beginning and there may be many difficulties ahead”.
One of the difficulties may arise in the form of joint US-South Korean military drills. "We will be stopping the war games,” Mr Trump told reporters in Singapore after his talks with Mr Kim on Sentosa, but did not say which.
The Trump’s announcement came as a surprise to the South Korean government.
“At this point, we need to know President Trump’s exact meaning or intentions,” according to the statement released by Mr Moon's office.
“However we think that it is crucial to pursue various solutions for better dialogue.”
Mr Moon has worked hard, often playing the role of a mediator, to bring both the US and North Korea back to dialogue. He is also pushing for a peace declaration to be made between the US and the two Koreas, to pave the way to permanent peace on the Korean Peninsula.
Mr Moon has met Mr Kim, whose official title is Chairman of State Affairs Commission, North Korea's highest decision-making body, twice since April 27.
The Trump-Kim summit is highly watched in South Korea as its outcome will affect the future of the Korean Peninsula, which has been divided since an armistice halted the Korean War in 1953 after three years of hostilities.
The historic first handshake between Mr Trump and Mr Kim was screen live on all major TV stations, with daily newspapers providing timely updates online. Crowds gather around televisions in public places like railway stations to watch the live broadcast.
Yonhap news agency said the meeting was a "historic opportunity to peacefully end the North Korean nuclear threat", and that security in Singapore was "watertight", with about 5,000 police and security officers deployed on major roads leading to the Capella Hotel on Sentosa island.
The Korea Times noted that the Trump-Kim meeting was the "first-ever sit-down between the leaders of the Korean War adversaries and the culmination of a months-long flurry of diplomacy."
JoongAng Ilbo, a major Korean language daily, said "the summit of the century" may possibly "pave the way to a formal end to the 1950-53 Korean War".