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North Korea removes major obstacle to U.S. Negotiations, south says

Kim Jong Un, North Korea’s leader, has removed a key obstacle to negotiations with Washington by ceasing to demand that American troops be removed from South Korea as a condition for denuclearizing his country.

For decades, the reclusive country, an ally of China, has persistently demanded the withdrawal of 28,500 U.S. troops in South Korea, citing their presence as a pretext to justify its development of nuclear weapons. The demand has always been a nonstarter for South Korean and American negotiators.

On Thursday, Moon said North Korea no longer included that demand in the list of things it wanted in return for giving up its nuclear weapons. That has encouraged the United States to proceed with plans to hold its first-ever summit meeting with North Korea, he said.

President Donald Trump sent the CIA director, Mike Pompeo, to Pyongyang, the North Korean capital, at the beginning of April to meet with Kim to assess how serious North Korea was about negotiating away its nuclear weapons.

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Trump later said “a good relationship was formed” with the North Koreans. He plans to meet with Kim in May or early June, although he warned on Wednesday that he would scrap those plans if it “is not going to be fruitful.”

But Moon said North Korea was already showing a willingness to make concessions.

“The North Koreans did not present any conditions that the United States could not accept, such as the withdrawal of American troops in South Korea,” Moon told newspaper publishers in Seoul on Thursday ahead of his planned April 27 summit meeting with Kim.

“They only talk about an end to hostilities against their country and about getting security guarantees,” he said. “It’s safe to say that the plans for dialogue between the North and the United States could proceed because that has been made clear.”

When Moon’s special envoys met with Kim in Pyongyang early last month, Kim said his country would no longer need nuclear weapons if it did not feel “threatened militarily” and was provided with “security guarantees.”

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This article originally appeared in The New York Times.

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