North Korea seeks ‘complete denuclearisation’, says Moon

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North Korean soldiers keep watch towards the south at the truce village of Panmunjom inside the Demilitarised Zone that separates the two Koreas. Reuters

SEOUL/GENEVA (Reuters) – North Korea has expressed its commitment to “complete denuclearisation” of the Korean peninsula and is not seeking conditions, South Korean President Moon Jae-in said yesterday, as the United States vowed to maintain “maximum pressure” on Pyongyang.

Mr Moon said big-picture agreements about denuclearisation, establishing a peace regime and normalisation of relations between the two Koreas and the US should not be difficult to reach through summits between the North and South, and between the North and the US.

“I don’t think denuclearisation has different meanings for South and North Korea. The North 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 talking about is the end of hostile policies against North Korea, followed by a guarantee of security.”

North Korea has defended its nuclear and missile programmes, which it pursues in defiance of UN Security Council resolutions, as a necessary deterrent against perceived US hostility. The US 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 US 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 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 inter-Korean summit had “a lot of constraints”, in that the two 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,” Mr Moon said.

US CIA Director Mike Pompeo visited North Korea last week and met leader Kim Jong Un with whom he formed a “good relationship”, US President Donald Trump said on Wednesday, ahead of a summit planned for May or June.

Mr Trump said he hoped the summit would be successful, but warned he would call it off if he did not think it would produce results.

Mr Trump told a joint news conference with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe that his campaign of “maximum pressure” on North Korea would continue until Pyongyang gave up its nuclear weapons.

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

Ahead of next week’s summit, Seoul and Pyongyang will also complete the instalment of a telephone hotline between the two leaders today, directly connecting the South’s presidential Blue House and the North’s State Affairs Commission, the South’s presidential spokesman said.

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