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Korean Leaders Move Toward Reconciliation

The bilateral agreement ended three days of historic meetings in the North Korean capital, Pyongyang, between North Korean leader Kim Jong Il and South Korean President Roh Moo-hyun. In a joint statement, they “agreed to closely cooperate to end military hostility and ensure peace and easing of tension on the Korean peninsula,” according to news organizations.

The armistice that concluded the 1950-53 Korean War was signed by China, North Korea and U.S.-led United Nations forces, but not by South Korea. The terms of a formal peace treaty were never established.

The new agreement also called for setting up regular freight train service and establishing a cooperation zone around a disputed sea border.

In an issue of keen importance to many aging Koreans, the two sides also agreed to increase reunions between relatives separated by the border. Since the first summit between the Koreas in June 2000, some 18,000 Koreans from separated families have been permitted face-to-face or video reunions.

The pact came a day after a deal at China-hosted arms talks among North Korea, the United States and other key regional powers, in which the North promised to disable its main nuclear facilities and fully declare its nuclear programs by Dec. 31.

The North’s Kim also refuted rumors that he is in ill health. At a lunch for Roh, Kim dismissed reports he was suffering from a range of ailments. South Korea’s spy agency says Kim has chronic heart disease and diabetes, but that they are not serious enough to affect his activities in the public eye.

“South Korean media reported that I have diabetes and even heart disease, but the fact is that is not the case at all,” he said, according to the Associated Press.

The two Koreas said they would hold “frequent” summits, although no timing for any future meetings was given.

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