North Korea will not seek withdrawal of US forces in return for denuclearisation, says South's Moon Jae In

US soldiers standing guard during a joint medical evacuatioin exercise as part of the annual massive military exercises, known as Key Resolve and Foal Eagle, at a South Korean Army hospital in Goyang, north-west of Seoul, on March 15, 2017.
US soldiers standing guard during a joint medical evacuatioin exercise as part of the annual massive military exercises, known as Key Resolve and Foal Eagle, at a South Korean Army hospital in Goyang, north-west of Seoul, on March 15, 2017. PHOTO: AFP
South Korean President Moon Jae In is set for a high-stakes meeting with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un on April 27, 2018.
South Korean President Moon Jae In is set for a high-stakes meeting with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un on April 27, 2018.PHOTO: AFP

SEOUL - North Korea is committed to "complete denuclearisation" and will not make unacceptable demands such as the withdrawal of United States troops stationed in South Korea, South Korean President Moon Jae In said on Thursday (April 19), a week before his summit with the regime's leader.

This is even as Washington vowed to maintain maximum pressure on Pyongyang, with President Donald Trump saying he would "respectfully leave" if his upcoming May or June meeting with Mr Kim Jong Un is "not fruitful".

Mr Moon expressed optimism about signing a denuclearisation deal with the North and moving towards a formal end to the Korean War. This would mean replacing the armistice that ended the fighting back in 1953.

In a meeting with top media executives yesterday, he also called for bold and creative steps towards denuclearisation, noting that South Korea's determination and efforts to "create our own destiny" have allowed them to improve inter-Korean ties that were icy in the past few years due to Pyongyang's incessant provocations.

"We cannot repeat our mistakes from the past. We must find new solutions that all parties involved can agree on," he said.

Mr Moon, a liberal leader who has pushed for rapprochement with the North, is set for a high-stakes meeting with Mr Kim next Friday (April 27) at the truce village of Panmunjom, located on South Korea's side of the demilitarised zone separating the two Koreas. The two leaders are also expected to speak over the phone before the summit, after a hotline between the two sides is connected on Friday (April 20).

The main goal of the engagement is co-prosperity of the two Koreas through peace and denuclearisation, Mr Moon said. This requires Pyongyang to develop ties with Washington and Tokyo, with support from Beijing as well as the international community, he added.

 
 

What Mr Kim wants in return is the end of a "hostile policy" against North Korea and a guarantee of the regime's security, Mr Moon said.

He also called for efforts to "make the inter-Korean summit a good start", so that it can lead to a positive Trump-Kim meeting and "keep inter-Korean dialogue going".

Mr Trump, on his part, aims to eliminate not only the North's nuclear arsenal but also its chemical and biological weapons, said US ambassador to Japan Bill Hagerty.

"President's intention is to see all of these weapons of mass destruction eliminated from the Korean Peninsula and the strategy remains the same in terms of complete, verifiable and irreversible aspects of denuclearisation," he told Asian reporters on Friday.

Analysts said a successful inter-Korean summit hinges on North Korea's willingness not only to promise to give up nuclear weapons, but also to allow inspections on its nuclear arsenal and test sites.

Dr Go Myong Hyun of The Asan Institute for Policy Studies in Seoul said: "Success would be for North Korea to declare its nuclear arsenal to the international community and allow full inspection... in exchange for the establishment of diplomatic relationships with the US and resumption of economic assistance."

Ms Jessica Lee, director of policy and advocacy at the Washington-based Council of Korean Americans, urged "maximum flexibility, not maximum ideology" from all parties involved.

"We should not let the past dictate the future, or we risk miscalculations that could lead to a nuclear war," she added.