SEOUL (Reuters) - North Korea has expressed its desire for “complete denuclearization” of the Korean peninsula and is not seeking conditions such as U.S. troops withdrawing from the South first, South Korean President Moon Jae-in said on Thursday.
Moon said big-picture agreements about normalization 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 programs.
“North Korea is expressing a will for a complete denuclearization,” Moon told reporters.
“They have not attached any conditions that the U.S. 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 programs, which it pursues in defiance of U.N. Security Council resolutions, as a necessary deterrent against perceived U.S. 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.
Reclusive North Korea and the rich, democratic South are technically still at war because the 1950-53 conflict ended in a truce, not a peace treaty.
Moon also said he saw the possibility of a peace agreement, or even international aid for the North’s economy, if it denuclearizes.
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,” Moon said.
U.S. CIA Director Mike Pompeo visited North Korea last week and met leader Kim Jong Un with whom he formed a “good relationship”, U.S. President Donald Trump said on Wednesday, ahead of a summit planned for May or June.
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.
Reporting by Joyce Lee; Editing by Nick Macfie