North Korean leader Kim Jong Un has agreed to the “complete denuclearization” of the Korean Peninsula without unacceptable preconditions, such as the removal of U.S. troops, the South Korean president said Thursday.
“The North Koreans did not present any conditions that the United States could not accept, such as the withdrawal of American troops in South Korea,” South Korean President Moon Jae-in explained to reporters Thursday in Seoul, adding, “They only talk about an end to hostilities against their country and about getting security guarantees. It’s safe to say that the plans for dialogue between the North and the United States could proceed because that has been made clear.” This assurance, yet to be confirmed by North Korea, could remove a key obstacle in negotiations.
North Korea has repeatedly demanded the withdrawal of U.S. troops, yet the Kim regime has also said on occasion that it could accept the U.S. military presence in Korea if a peace treaty was signed and relations between Washington and Pyongyang were normalized. Kim Jong Il, father of the current North Korean dictator, said that the preservation of the American military presence in Korea was “not a bad idea,” noting the U.S. should continue to contribute to “stability in Northeast Asia,” The New York Times reported.
The U.S. has around 28,000 troops stationed in South Korea. However, troop numbers fluctuate. The U.S. regularly deploys strategic assets to the peninsula for joint drills and combat exercises.
Moon’s remarks come ahead of the third inter-Korean summit and the first since Kim Jong Un took power. The April 27 meeting between the two Korean leaders is expected to be followed by an unprecedented meeting between President Donald Trump and Kim in either May or June.
“As you know, I will be meeting with Kim Jong Un in the coming weeks to discuss the denuclearisation of the Korean peninsula,” Trump said Wednesday, “Hopefully that meeting will be a great success and we’re looking forward to it.”
Analysts have noted in recent weeks that their may be a disconnect over the word “denuclearization,” with each side interpreting the unusual term differently. Moon dismissed these fears in his talks with reporters.
“I do not think there is any difference between the parties over what they mean by ‘denuclearization,'” the South Korean president said. “North Korea is expressing a willingness to denuclearize completely.”
North Korea has made similar promises before, offering to abandon its pursuit of nuclear weapons and then offering to abandon the nuclear weapons it promised to never build in the first place.
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