(CNN) — Kim Jong Un has declared “a new history begins now” after shaking hands with South Korean President Moon Jae-in at the start of a landmark peace summit.

Kim became the first North Korean leader to step into South Korean territory since 1953 on Friday morning, crossing the line that separates the two Koreas at the demilitarized zone (DMZ.)

He was greeted by President Moon before walking along a red carpet to the Peace House for the first meeting between the leaders of the divided Koreas since 2007.

Kim received a full welcoming ceremony, including a military band which played the traditional Korean folk song “arirang,” well known in both North and South Korea.

The two leaders appeared at ease, smiling and talking, and on entering the Peace House Kim signed a guest bookwhere he wrote “a new history starts now” and “an age of peace, at the starting point of history.”

Both men traveled to the demilitarized zone (DMZ) on Friday for a full day of talks on three subjects with worldwide implications — the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula, a peace settlement and the improvement of bilateral relations.

Crowds of supporters, holding signs calling for denuclearization, waved off the South Korean President as he left his residence in Seoul and his motorcade’s hour-long drive north towards the DMZ was broadcast live to the world.

Huge banners have been displayed across the South Korean capital of Seoul proclaiming “Peace, a new start” amid speculation the two leaders could discuss signing an official peace treaty finally ending the Korean War.

Kim would “open-heartedly discuss” all the issues with Moon, and was entering talks with the hope of “achieving peace prosperity and reunification of the Korean Peninsula,” North Korean state media KCNA said.

The summit is the result of months of diplomatic wrangling and negotiating on the part of Moon, a longtime advocate of peace between the Koreas. It will also set the stage for the first meeting between a sitting US president and North Korean leader when Donald Trump and Kim meet in late May or June.

In a White House statement issued on Friday morning, the Trump administration said it hoped the talks “will achieve progress toward a future of peace and prosperity for the entire Korean Peninsula.”

However, stakes are high and some observers are doubtful the two sides can bridge the gap created by 60 years of antagonism and suspicion.

Officials across the world, especially in the United States, will be paying close attention to any specific agreements by Kim relating to his nuclear arsenal.

While Kim has in recent weeks publicly endorsed denuclearization, what exactly he means by the term and how it would take place has been left extremely vague.

The-CNN-Wire
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