South Korean President Moon Jae-in and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un embarked on a rare trip Thursday to Mount Paekdu in an event designed to enhance their personal ties and also highlight the success of their summit in Pyongyang.
The leaders left Pyongyang's Sunan International Airport shortly after 7 a.m., each using his own presidential jet.
Moon arrived in Pyongyang on Tuesday, using his Air Force One. For his trip to Mount Paekdu, however, he was forced to use the smaller Air Force Two as Samjiyon airport near the North Korean mountain is said to have a short runway that can only land small aircraft.
Mount Paekdu is the tallest and possibly the most famous mountain in Korea that is also frequented by many South Koreans as it sits on the border with China.
Only a handful of South Koreans are said to have ever visited the mountain from the North Korean side and mostly for research purposes.
The joint trip of the leaders apparently highlights the recent rapprochement between the divided Koreas that technically remain at war.
Moon's trip to North Korea marked his third bilateral summit with Kim.
It was largely aimed at brokering a deal between the North and the United States to restart their denuclearization talks.
Still, the countries have also agreed to greatly reduce their military tension, promising to never use their military force against each other under any circumstances.
The latest inter-Korean summit may also be considered a success in that it has apparently led to a resumption of U.S.-North Korea dialogue.
"On the basis of these important commitments, the United States is prepared to engage immediately in negotiations to transform U.S.-DPRK relations," U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said in Washington, only hours after Moon and Kim announced their joint declaration in Pyongyang. DPRK stands for the North's official name, the Democratic People's Republic of Korea.
The U.S.-North Korea talks have stalled since U.S. President Donald Trump called off Pompeo's scheduled trip to North Korea in July, citing what he called a lack of progress in the North's denuclearization process.
The North Korean leader has offered to permanently dismantle his country's key nuclear facility in Yongbyon in return for corresponding steps from the U.S.
Moon will travel to the U.S. next week for a bilateral summit with Trump.
Moon and Kim are set to drive up to the peak of Mount Paekdu as long as weather conditions allow, officials in Seoul and Pyongyang said.
They will also attempt to reach the mountain's famous crater Chonji.
They will return to Pyongyang later in the day when the South Korean president is also set to return home. (Yonhap)
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