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Kim isn’t demanding U.S. forces to leave

Moon says North’s not asking for anything the U.S. can’t accept
Apr 20,2018
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Members of the press on Thursday take a familiarization tour of Peace House in Panmunjom, where South Korean President Moon Jae-in and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un are scheduled to have a historic summit on April 27. [YONHAP]
이미지뷰
President Moon Jae-in, center, speaks during a meeting with the heads of local news outlets in the Blue House in Seoul on Thursday to solicit their advice on his upcoming summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un. [YONHAP]
North Korea is not demanding the withdrawal of the U.S. military forces from South Korea in return for its denuclearization, President Moon Jae-in said on Thursday.

It was the first time that Moon, or any public official, confirmed that withdrawal of U.S. forces was not on the North’s list of demands in return for denuclearization.

“North Korea is expressing its intention for complete denuclearization,” said the president during a luncheon meeting at the Blue House with senior executives of 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.”

Affirming the North’s intent for complete and irreversible denuclearization, Moon took note of concerns raised by some in the country, especially among security hawks, that the North would only agree to a nuclear freeze that falls short of complete denuclearization. That was not the case, Moon said.

The president emphasized that what the Kim Jong-un regime wants in return for abandoning its nuclear and missile program is the “end of a hostile policy” against its regime and a “guarantee of its security.”

Moon’s remarks on Thursday were apparently made to quell concerns in the country, especially among conservatives with hard-line views about Pyongyang, that North Korean leader Kim might demand some 28,500 U.S. soldiers stationed in Korea be withdrawn from South Korea as a pre-condition for its denuclearization.

Moon said that after it was confirmed that the North would not make such a demand, an agreement to hold the North-U.S. summit meeting was possible.

Saying that a solution to the North Korean issue will be tougher than in years past, the president said South Korea alone could not solve the problem. Improved relations between North Korea and other nations will be needed as well.

He also confessed limitations on the part of his government to achieve much at a time when international economic sanctions have been levied on the North for its nuclear and missile tests.

“At a time when strict international and U.S. sanctions are enforced [against the North], we don’t have much to achieve bilaterally with the North beyond such sanctions,” said the president.

Reaffirming his commitment to serving as a mediator between Kim and U.S. President Trump, Moon said his government would position itself “in the middle to narrow down the gap between Pyongyang and Washington and explore realistic measures that can be accepted by the two sides.”

Moon’s remarks echoed the Blue House’s position that the inter-Korean summit next week should be a “guide” that will lead to a successful Kim-Trump summit, for which a date and venue have yet to be determined.

The presidential office hosted the luncheon with media executives to have the opportunity to explain its plan for the upcoming Moon-Kim summit on April 27 as well as to listen to ideas and recommendations from the executives.

BY KANG JIN-KYU [kang.jinkyu@joongang.co.kr]