Moon seeks early end-of-war declaration

SEOUL, Sept. 20 (Yonhap) -- South Korean President Moon Jae-in on Thursday made it clear that the proposed declaration of a formal end to the 1950-53 Korean War is only the start of a long process toward a peace treaty, which will come at the "final stage" of North Korea's denuclearization.

Moon also said he and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un are on the same page about the definition and indicated that the North is seeking the end-of-war declaration as the United States' "corresponding measures" for its further denuclearization steps, such as the dismantlement of its Yongbyon nuclear complex.

"First of all, there appear to be differences in the interpretation of the same expression, the end-of-war declaration," the president told a press conference after his return from a three-day trip to Pyongyang for his third summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un.

"Our definition is that we regard (the political declaration) as a starting point for peace negotiations for the signing of a peace treaty, and that when the North achieves complete denuclearization, the treaty will be signed and, at the same time, the North-U.S. relations will be normalized," he added.

Moon said he pushes for the declaration within this year and will discuss the issue with U.S. President Donald Trump when they meet in New York next week.

The North has called for the declaration, but critics argue that it could be similar to a peace arrangement that would weaken the rationale for the existence of the U.S.-led U.N. Command (UNC) and U.S. Forces Korea, which are stationed in the South to ensure peace on the peninsula.

The president also pointed out that until a peace treaty is inked, the armistice will remain intact.

"Thus, the status of the UNC or the need for the stationing of U.S. troops will not be affected at all," he said.

Moon, moreover, reiterated that the presence of the U.S. Forces Korea is a matter of the bilateral alliance, which is separate from the issue of a peace treaty.

Opponents have long asserted that the end-of-war declaration could strengthen the North's case for the dissolution of the UNC, which was launched during the Korean War to defend South Korea, and for the withdrawal of U.S. troops in the South.

The denuclearization talks between the U.S. and the North have been stalled as Pyongyang called for the declaration, while Washington demanded that the reclusive state should first take tangible disarmament steps such as a declaration of its nuclear arsenal.

Source: Yonhap News Agency

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