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Two Koreas Seek Deal for Formal End to Korean War

The leaders of North and South Korea pledged on Thursday to bring peace to the Cold War's last frontier by seeking talks with China and the United States to formally end the 1950-1953 Korean War.

South Korean President Roh Moo-hyun, right, and North Korean leader Kim Jong Il, left, inspect honor guard at welcoming ceremony in Pyongyang, North Korea, Tuesday, Oct. 2, 2007. North Korean leader Kim Jong Il greeted South Korean President Roh Moo-hyun in Pyongyang on Tuesday to begin the second summit between the two countries since the peninsula's division after World War II. (AP Photo/ Korea Pool via Yonhap)
AP
South Korean President Roh Moo-hyun, right, and North Korean leader Kim Jong Il, left, inspect honor guard at welcoming ceremony in Pyongyang, North Korea, Tuesday, Oct. 2, 2007. North Korean leader Kim Jong Il greeted South Korean President Roh Moo-hyun in Pyongyang on Tuesday to begin the second summit between the two countries since the peninsula's division after World War II. (AP Photo/ Korea Pool via Yonhap)

The agreement came at the end of only the second summit between the divided Koreas whose war ended with an armistice not a peace treaty.

"North and South Korea shared the view they must end the current armistice and build a permanent peace regime," South Korean President Roh Moo-hyun and North Korean leader Kim Jong-il said in a joint statement at the end of their three-day meeting in Pyongyang.

The agreement also called for setting up the first regular freight train service since the war, meetings of ministers and defence officials as well as establishing a cooperation zone around a contested sea border on the west of the peninsula.

The armistice that concluded their fratricidal battle was signed by China, North Korea and U.S.-led United Nations forces, but not by South Korea. U.S. President George W. Bush has said he can discuss a peace treaty once the North scraps its nuclear weapons program.

Giving a lift to the talks, China announced late on Wednesday that North Korea had agreed with regional powers to disable its nuclear facilities -- a source of atomic weapons material -- by the end of the year, a major step in normalising relations with the outside world.

The two agreed to work together to implement that pact.

Roh, criticized at home for agreeing to a summit in which little was likely to be achieved, said he would focus on bringing peace to the divided peninsula giving a leg-up to the North's wrecked economy.

South Korean officials argue that the impact of a collapsing North Korea on their economy -- Asia's fourth largest -- is a far greater risk than any attack by the North and it makes sense to pump in a few billion dollars now to allow gradual integration, rather than face catastrophic change later.

But Roh said that the North still did not trust the South, talking of a wall between the two that was hard to break down.

After a distinctly dour welcome on Tuesday, Kim looked far more affable the next day, looking pleased with his gifts that included dozens of films for the well-known movie buff.

Roh's critics have said the summit had less to do with improving relations with the prickly North than with trying to boost his liberal allies who are lagging badly in opinion polls ahead of December's presidential election, which he is barred from contesting.

They also doubted he would broach the highly sensitive issues of North Korea's nuclear weapons ambitions and appalling human rights record for fear of upsetting his paranoid host.