World

North Korea may accept 'a complete denuclearization,' South Korean president says

North Korea has expressed its commitment to "complete denuclearization" of the Korean peninsula and is not seeking conditions, South Korean President Moon Jae-in said, as the United States vowed to maintain "maximum pressure" on Pyongyang.

President Moon Jae-in open to possibility of peace agreement or economic aid

South Korean President Moon Jae-in said Thursday that North Korea is not seeking the withdrawal of U.S. troops before committing to denuclearization. (South Korea Presidential Blue House/Yonhap via AP)

North Korea has expressed its commitment to "complete denuclearization" of the Korean peninsula and is not seeking conditions, South Korean President Moon Jae-in said Thursday, as the United States vowed to maintain "maximum pressure" on Pyongyang.

Moon said big-picture agreements about denuclearization, establishing a peace regime and normalization of relations between the two Koreas and the United States should not be difficult to reach through summits between the North and South, and between the North and the United States.

"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.

"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 programmes, which it pursues in defiance of UN 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 defended its nuclear and missile programs, which it pursues in defiance of UN 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.

The dialogue between the two Koreas likely must continue after we see the results of the North Korea-United States summit.- Moon Jae-in, South Korean president

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.

Peace, economic aid possibilities

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.

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

He 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.

U.S. President Donald Trump waves during his departure on Air Force One at Palm Beach International Airport in West Palm Beach, Fla., on Thursday. Trump has left open the possibility of bailing on a planned meeting with Kim. (Pablo Martinez Monsivais/Associated Press)

China's foreign ministry spokesperson Hua Chunying told a regular press briefing in Beijing 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."

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.

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