President Moon says US troops can stay in South Korea after peace deal

South Korean President Moon says US troops in the country would NOT have to leave if a peace treaty is signed with the North

  • Agreement between South Korea and US sees 28,500 American troops there
  • Adviser to Moon said troops may have to to go as part of North-South peace deal
  • President dismissed suggestion as US F-22 planes arrive for joint exercise  
  • China’s foreign minister in Pyongyang in a bid to improve relations with regime 

South Korean President Moon Jae-in dismissed claims that US troops stationed in the country would have to leave if a peace treaty was signed with the North.

Seoul and Pyongyang have remained technically at war since the 1950s but Moon and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un agreed at a landmark summit last week to work towards a permanent treaty to replace a 65-year-old armistice agreement.

‘US Forces Korea (USFK) is a matter of the South Korea-US alliance. It has nothing to do with signing a peace treaty,’ Moon said, referring to the agreement that sees 28,500 US forces based in the South.

South Korean President Moon Jae-in says any peace treaty with North Korea would have no bearing on whether American troops stayed on the peninsula

Moon’s comments came after a presidential adviser publicly suggested the presence of US soldiers, sailors and airmen would be called into question if a peace treaty were to be agreed with Pyongyang.

Moon Chung-in had written in Foreign Affairs magazine that it would be ‘difficult to justify (US forces) continuing presence in South Korea’ after the adoption of a peace treaty.

But the Blue House – President Moon’s office – warned the adviser ‘not to cause any more confusion,’ with such comments, spokesman Kim Eui-kyeom said.

The rebuttal came as Seoul’s defence ministry confirmed that several US fighter jets had arrived in the country to take part in a regular joint exercises.

The F-22 ‘Raptor’ stealth fighters last came to the South in December when Seoul and Washington staged their largest-ever joint air exercise, days after North Korea test-fired a missile believed to be capable of hitting the US mainland.

South Korea’s defence ministry said the deployment of F-22s (pictured) was unrelated to a planned summit between North Korea’s Kim Jong Un and US President Donald Trump

Local media reported eight F-22 jets had arrived Sunday at an airbase in the southern city of Gwangju.

The North customarily reacts with anger to the deployment of American stealth fighters, which it fears could be used for surgical strikes against its leadership and strategic facilities.

However, Kim Jong Un has recently shown a more conciliatory attitude, telling Seoul envoy Chung Eui-yong in March that he understood the need for the US-South Korea joint exercises.

The ‘Max Thunder’ drill will kick off on May 11 for two weeks, with the reported participation of 100 aircraft from both countries.

The defence ministry urged news media to refrain from producing ‘speculative reports’ about the move.

That request came after the conservative Chosun Ilbo daily claimed the aircraft deployment could be intended to heap pressure on Pyongyang ahead of a planned summit between Kim Jong Un and US President Donald Trump.

F-22 Raptor is taking part in the ‘Max Thunder’ drill which will kick off on May 11 for two weeks

‘Max Thunder is a regular exercise that has been on the docket long before a planned US-North Korea summit,’ the defence ministry said in a statement.

The Panmunjom truce village in the demilitarised zone between North and South, where last week’s inter-Korean summit was convened, has emerged as a possible venue for the Kim-Trump meeting.

The Chosun Ilbo daily suggested the arrival of F-22 jets could also be aimed at bolstering security in case the North Korea-US summit takes place at Panmunjom.

Meanwhile, China’s foreign minister arrived in Pyongyang on Wednesday, the highest-ranking Chinese official to visit North Korea in years as Beijing tries to mend fences with its nuclear-armed neighbour.

South Korean President Moon Jae-in and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un shake hands as they met for their recent historic summit 

China’s foreign minister is to travel to Pyongyang in the wake of the meeting between the leaders of the two Koreas 

The two-day visit by Wang Yi follows a landmark inter-Korean summit and precedes a meeting between the North’s leader Kim Jong Un and US President Donald Trump in coming weeks.

Wang, who will meet his North Korean counterpart Ri Yong Ho during his stay, was greeted by vice foreign minister Ri Kil Song and other officials at Pyongyang airport.

The two top diplomats met in Beijing last month, days after Kim travelled to China for talks with President Xi Jinping.

It was Kim’s first overseas trip since he took power in 2011 and came amid signs of a diplomatic thaw.

Last month Kim travelled to Beijing to meet China’s resident Xi Jinping. China is North Korea’s sole diplomatic ally 

Wang is the first Chinese foreign minister to visit the North since 2007, a lapse that highlights the rough patch that relations between the allies have gone through in recent years.

China – North Korea’s sole diplomatic ally and economic benefactor – has supported a series of United Nations sanctions against the North over its nuclear and missile programmes.

Last year the North staged its most powerful nuclear test to date and launched missiles capable of reaching the US mainland as Kim and Trump traded threats of war and personal insults, sparking global security fears.

Experts say China is now likely eager to avoid being marginalised in the wave of diplomacy that led to last Friday’s historic summit between Kim and the South’s President Moon Jae-in.

Kim is expected to meet Trump in the coming weeks at a time and place yet to be announced.

The North Korean leader has also invited Xi to visit Pyongyang but no date has been set.

 

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