20 May 2019
South Korea’s President Moon Jae-in said talks between the leaders of the two Koreas could not make progress separate from the North's summit with the United States. Photo: AFP
South Korea’s President Moon Jae-in said talks between the leaders of the two Koreas could not make progress separate from the North's summit with the United States. Photo: AFP

North Korea seeks complete denuclearization, Moon says

North Korea has expressed its commitment to “complete denuclearization” of the Korean peninsula and has not attached conditions, South Korea’s President Moon Jae-in said.

Moon said agreements about denuclearization, establishing a peace regime and normalization of relations between the Koreas and the United States should not be difficult to reach through a North-South summit next week, and a later summit planned between North Korean leader Kim Jong-un and US President Donald Trump, Reuters reports.

“I don’t think denuclearization has different meanings for South and North Korea. The North is expressing a will for a complete denuclearization,” Moon said during a lunch with chief executives of Korean media companies on Thursday.

“They have not attached any conditions that the US cannot accept, such as the withdrawal of American troops from South Korea. All they are talking about is the end of hostile policies against North Korea, followed by a guarantee of security.”

CIA Director Mike Pompeo met Kim this month to discuss a proposed summit with Trump and reported that the North Korean leader was not demanding the withdrawal of all US forces as a precondition for the meeting, a US official briefed on Pompeo’s trip told Reuters.

However, the official, who did not want to be identified, said that while Kim was open to negotiating “denuclearization”, the term remained undefined and potentially deceptive, given the need for a timetable and an inspection regime.

North Korea has defended its nuclear and missile programs in the face of worldwide condemnation and sanctions as a necessary deterrent against perceived US hostility.

It has said over the years that it could consider giving up its nuclear arsenal if the US removed its troops from South Korea and withdrew its so-called nuclear umbrella of deterrence from South Korea and Japan.

On Wednesday, Trump, who says he plans to meet Kim in late May or early June for an unprecedented summit to try to persuade him to give up his nuclear weapons, reaffirmed the “unwavering” US commitment to maintain that umbrella.

In a joint statement after talks with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, Trump said the US commitment to defend Japan “through the full range of US military capabilities” was “unwavering”.

The US stations 28,500 troops in South Korea, a legacy of the 1950-53 Korean War, which ended in a truce, not a peace treaty. Trump complained in his election campaign about the cost of keeping those in Korea but his administration has given no indication of any plan to withdraw them.

South Korea announced on Wednesday 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.

Moon said he saw the possibility of a peace agreement, or even international aid for North Korea’s economy, if it denuclearizes.

But he also said the inter-Korean summit had “a lot of constraints”, in that the Koreas could not make progress separate from the North Korea-US 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,” Moon said.

In Beijing, China’s foreign ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying told a regular press briefing that China supported ending the state of war on the Korean peninsula.

“China supports ending the war state on the peninsula at an early date,” she said. “As a party involved in the peninsula issue, China is willing to play an active role.”

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