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Sunday, July 30, 2000

Report: North Korea would OK
U.S. presence as 'peacekeeper'

By Jim Lea
Osan bureau chief

PYONGTAEK, South Korea — Pyongyang would accept the long-term assignment of U.S. troops to South Korea in the role of “neutral peacekeepers,” according to a Chinese government publication.

An analysis of the situation on the Korean Peninsula published Wednesday by the English-language Beijing Review said North Korea “possibly will make the concession in view of improved relations with the United States.” If a change in the status of American troops is realized, the analysis said, Pyongyang will move toward normalization of relations with South Korea.

The analysis said “numerous” North Korean officials have said Pyongyang could accept the presence of troops if Washington seeks a Korean War peace treaty with Pyongyang and U.S. troops on the peninsula remain neutral.

The United States so far has rejected negotiating a peace treaty with North Korea, with U.S. officials saying such a treaty should be worked out between the two Koreas.

Although Pyongyang has contended for years that it fought the Korean War against the United States, Washington never declared war on the North and considered the war a “police action.” U.S. troops fought in Korea under the United Nations’ flag.

The analysis also suggested the establishment of a peacekeeping force made up of troops from Northeast Asian countries and the United States as another alternative.

South Korean President Kim Dae-jung said after his return from the historic Inter-Korea summit in Pyongyang in June he had told North Korean leader Kim Jong Il that U.S. troops should remain on the peninsula even after unification of the two Koreas. Those troops, he said, are needed to provide stability on the peninsula and in Northeast Asia.

North Korea’s Kim reportedly “listened attentively,” but gave no answer.

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