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Kim Jong Il Signs Pledge to Seek Progress in Ending Nuclear Weapons

The two Koreas have signed a cooperation pact that for the first time puts North Korean leader Kim Jong Il's personal signature on a pledge to end to his nuclear weapons programs. As VOA's Kurt Achin reports from Seoul, the pact also increases North-South cooperation on several major fronts.

North Korean leader Kim Jong Il and South Korean President Roh Moo-hyun have put their signatures on an agreement calling for an eventual permanent peace arrangement. The joint statement was issued Thursday, the third and final day of their summit in Pyongyang.

Despite increasing cooperation, the two Koreas are theoretically at war. A 1953 armistice halted military action three years after the North invaded the South, but it was never replaced with a formal peace treaty.

South Korean Presidential Secretary Baek Jong-chun says the two leaders also signed on to a more far-reaching goal. Reading directly from the pact, Baek says the two put their signatures to a process that could lead to North Korea abandoning all of its nuclear programs.

Baek says South and North have agreed to cooperate in the implementation of two agreements reached in multinational nuclear talks, in order to resolve the nuclear issue on the Korean peninsula.

South Korean officials confirm this is the first time Kim Jong Il has personally signed a document relating to the effort to bring his nuclear programs to an end.

The two leaders celebrated the signing at a lunch Thursday, and were toasted by senior officials from both delegations.

Senior North Korean official Kim Young Il says the occasion proves that when North and South put their hearts together, nothing is impossible.

South Korean Unification Minister Lee Jae Joung raised his glass and said the two Koreas must continue to meet at both the highest levels, and on the level of average citizens. He says the two Koreas will naturally become one as they continue to meet, and that reunification, backed by trust and understanding, are the key to the Korean people's survival.

The cooperation pact includes plans for regular freight train traffic across the North-South border. It also calls for creation of a new joint tourism project at North's Korea's Mount Baekdu, near the Chinese border.

North and South Korea have fought several naval clashes over a United Nations-drawn maritime border in the waters west of the Korean peninsula. Thursday's document declared plans for a joint fishing zone in the area, in an effort to reduce tensions there.

However, Kim Tae Woo, a senior analyst at Seoul's Korea Institute for Defense Analyses, is not optimistic about the zone's prospects. He says North Korea has never recognized the maritime border, and as a result, it will be difficult to agree on the terms for the new fishing zone.

The two leaders agreed Thursday that North and South should hold more summits and other high-level meetings. President Roh, who will leave office next year, is due back home Thursday evening after walking across the military demarcation line in Panmunjeom, the border-straddling village where the 1953 inter-Korean armistice was signed.