May 14, 2018
SEOUL, May 14 (Yonhap) -- North Korea may choose to overlook the stationing of United States troops in South Korea in exchange for establishing diplomatic ties with Washington, a former South Korean unification minister said Monday.
Jeong Se-hyun, who was unification minister from 2002 to 2004, said in a lecture in Seoul that North Korea had in the past acknowledged the existence of U.S. Forces Korea (USFK) in return for diplomatic favors from the U.S.
"In 1992, then North Korean leader Kim Il-sung sent his secretary to the U.S. and proposed not demanding the withdrawal of USFK if the two countries established diplomatic relations. But Washington rejected the proposal," Jeong said.
"If the proposal were accepted, the North may not have attempted to develop nuclear weapons. The U.S. government seemed to think at that time that the North Korean regime would collapse by itself."
Former South Korean unification minister Jeong Se-hyun speaks during a lecture in Seoul on May 14, 2018. (Yonhap)
Jeong then speculated that there is no reason for North Korea to live in economic difficulty as long as the U.S. makes a non-aggression promise.
Jeong praised the government of South Korean President Moon Jae-in for contributing to the improvement of inter-Korean and North Korea-U.S. relations. "Moon detected North Korea's intention to reach out to the U.S. via the PyeongChang Olympics Games."
Regarding relations between North Korea and Japan, the former minister said Tokyo tends to follow the decision of the U.S. and may seek to establish diplomatic ties with Pyongyang if U.S.-North Korea relations are normalized.