SEOUL (REUTERS, AFP, BLOOMBERG) - North Korea has expressed its desire for “complete denuclearisation” of the Korean peninsula and is not seeking conditions such as US troops withdrawing from the South first, South Korean President Moon Jae In said on Thursday (April 19).
He also said a peace treaty to formally end the Korean War “must be pursued”.
“The armistice that has dragged on for 65 years must come to an end,” Mr Moon told media company representatives at the presidential Blue House, ahead of a summit next week with Kim Jong Un, leader of the nuclear-armed North.
“The signing of a peace treaty must be pursued after an end to the war is declared,” he added.
But he cautioned that implementing any deal with Mr Kim would be difficult.
"As everybody worries, what specifically needs to done to meet these goals is not easy," Mr Moon said. "We can't repeat what was done in the past and should find new ways. We also need consensus among all relevant parties to call the summits a success."
The 1950-53 Korean War ended in an armistice rather than a peace treaty, leaving the two sides technically at war, and the Demilitarised Zone between them – where Mr Moon and Mr Kim will meet next Friday – bristles with minefields and fortifications.
Mr Moon said big-picture agreements about normalisation of relations between the two Koreas and the United States should not be difficult to reach through planned summits between North and South, and between the North and the United States, in a bid to rein in the North’s nuclear and missile programmes.
“North Korea is expressing a will for a complete denuclearisation,” Mr Moon said.
“They have not attached any conditions that the US cannot accept, such as the withdrawal of American troops from South Korea. All they are expressing is the end of hostile policies against North Korea, followed by a guarantee of security.”
North Korea has defended its weapons programmes, which it pursues in defiance of UN Security Council resolutions, as a necessary deterrent against perceived US hostility.
The United States stations 28,500 troops in South Korea, a legacy of the 1950-53 Korean War. North Korea has said over the years that it could consider giving up its nuclear arsenal if the United States removed its troops from South Korea and withdrew its so-called nuclear umbrella of deterrence from South Korea and Japan.
South Korea announced on Wednesday that it is considering how to change a decades-old armistice with North Korea into a peace agreement as it prepares for the North-South summit this month.
Mr Moon also said he saw the possibility of a peace agreement, or even international aid for the North’s economy, if it denuclearises.
But he also said the summit had “a lot of constraints”, in that the two Koreas could not make progress separate from the North Korea-United States summit, and could not reach an agreement that transcends international sanctions.
“So first, the South-North Korean summit must make a good beginning, and the dialogue between the two Koreas likely must continue after we see the results of the North Korea-United States summit,” Mr Moon said.
US CIA Director Mike Pompeo made a secret trip to Pyongyang earlier this month to prepare for the summit and US officials are narrowing down potential sites, US President Donald Trump said on Wednesday, ahead of a summit planned for May or June.
Mr Moon spoke after US President Donald Trump warned that his own much-anticipated summit with Mr Kim would be called off if he did not think it would be “fruitful”.
“If I think that it’s a meeting that is not going to be fruitful, we’re not going to go,” Mr Trump said. “If the meeting, when I’m there, is not fruitful, I will respectfully leave the meeting.”
US Ambassador to Japan Bill Hagerty said on Thursday that Mr Trump is aiming to eliminate the country's arsenal of chemical and biological weapons as well as nuclear ones.
"We had broad-ranging discussions on the topic and it extended beyond denuclearisation to the topics of chemical and biological weapons as well," Mr Hagerty said during a telephone conference with Asian reporters.
North Korea meanwhile will hold a plenary meeting of its ruling party’s central committee on Friday, state media KCNA said on Thursday.
The meeting was convened to discuss and decide “policy issues of a new stage” to meet the demands of the current“important historic period”, KCNA said.