North Korean leader Kim Jong Un will not demand the withdrawal of the American military from South Korea as part of a denuclearization deal, the South’s president said Thursday as preparations for their meeting next week proceeded apace.
The Kim regime has long insisted that it needs its nuclear weapons to protect itself from the United States’ “hostile policy” and that any deal must guarantee its security. That process must include the complete pullout of American troops from the peninsula, the regime has repeatedly stated.
But Moon Jae-in, who will meet Kim in the demilitarized zone that separates their two countries next Friday, said North Korea has signaled a major shift in its stance.
“North Korea is expressing its intention for complete denuclearization,” Moon said during a lunch meeting in the presidential Blue House with top executives from 48 media companies. “And it is not making demands that the U.S. cannot accept, such as the withdrawal of the U.S. forces in Korea,” he said, according to the JoongAng Ilbo, one of South Korea’s biggest papers and one that had a representative at the lunch.
The U.S. military has 28,000 troops stationed in South Korea, with backups in Japan and on Guam – the legacy of the standoff that has ensued since the Korean War ended in 1953.
Every spring and fall, U.S. forces conduct drills with the South Korean military, preparing for various scenarios on the peninsula, including the sudden collapse of North Korea and “decapitation” strikes on the North Korean leadership.
North Korea strongly protests the drills, viewing them as a pretext for an invasion and emblematic of what it considers the U.S. policy to destroy the regime.
But Moon, who is vigorously promoting diplomacy as the solution to the North Korean nuclear problem, said Thursday that the Kim regime wants an “end to the hostile policy” and a “guarantee of its security” in return for abandoning its nuclear and missile program.
(c) 2018, The Washington Post · Anna Fifield