Future of US troops in South Korea part of talks with North Korea: Mattis
Iran Press TV
Fri Apr 27, 2018 11:02PM
US Defense Secretary Jim Mattis says the future of American troops deployed to South Korea will be determined during negotiations with North Korea, as the leaders of the South and North made history after they attended a highly anticipated summit in a bid to put aside decades of enmity between the two peninsular countries.
"I think for right now we just have to go along with the process, have the negotiations and not try to make preconditions or presumptions about how it is going to go. The diplomats are going to have to go to work now," Mattis told journalists at a Friday press conference when asked about the future of US troops in South Korea.
Mattis' comments came less than a day after North Korean leader Kim Jong-un and South Korean President Moon Jae-in, following a highly choreographed summit, signed a joint declaration, dubbed, "the Panmunjom Declaration for Peace, Prosperity and Unification on the Korean Peninsula", which could lead to the complete denuclearization of the peninsula.
During their first summit in more than a decade, the two leaders also stated that they would seek an agreement to establish "permanent" and "solid" peace on the Korean Peninsula.
The two countries engaged in a three-year-long military conflict that came to an end in 1953 with an armistice rather than a peace treaty, meaning that the two sides remain technically at war. The Friday agreement was also an attempt to formally end the Korean War.
While Mattis hailed the historic peace talks between the North and South, he stressed that Pyongyang would still need to earn the trust of Washington and its allies as it works toward denuclearization.
"We will build, through confidence-building measures, a degree of trust to go forward. So we'll see how things go," Mattis further said during the presser, adding, "I don't have a crystal ball. I can tell you we are optimistic right now that there's opportunity here that we have never enjoyed since 1950."
The US, a foe of North Korea throughout the Cold War, has already stationed nearly 30,000 military personnel in South Korea, a legacy of the Korean War, in a declared attempt to defend the South against any possible military threat from the North.
A possible meeting between Kim and US President Donald Trump is also reportedly being planned for sometime in May or June.
The North Korean leader recently announced that he had suspended all the country's nuclear and missile tests, which have drawn harsh sanctions from both the US and the UN.
Tensions on the Korean Peninsula were running high in 2017. Trump's threats last year prompted North Korea to carry out its most powerful nuclear test to date and launch intercontinental ballistic missiles capable of reaching the US mainland. But Kim expressed sudden interest in the resolution of disagreements with the South on New Year's Day, and a series of overtures began.
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