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South Korean president says US troops will stay in his country even if a peace deal is reached

North Korea's leader Kim Jong Un (left) and South Korea's President Moon Jae-in bid farewell Friday during a closing ceremony of the inter-Korean summit in the truce village of Panmunjom. President Moon announced that a peace treaty between North Korea and South Korea would not impact whether or not U.S. troops stayed in his country. (Korea Summit Press Pool/AFP/Getty Images)

South Korean President Moon Jae-In announced that a peace treaty between North and South Korea would not impact whether or not U.S. troops stayed in his country. This statement seemed to contradict one of his advisers, who publicly said that it would be “difficult to justify” U.S. troops staying in South Korea after a formal peace treaty was signed.

The U.S. currently has about 28,500 troops stationed in South Korea.

Why are U.S. troops in South Korea?

Technically, the Korean War never ended, although the fighting has been on hold for decades. After both Koreas signed an armistice deal to pause the fighting, the U.S. and South Korea signed an agreement in which the U.S. would maintain a military presence on the peninsula.

What did the South Korean president say?

On Wednesday, President Moon clarified his statement with another release: “US Forces Korea (USFK) is a matter of the South Korea-US alliance. It has nothing to do with signing a peace treaty.”

Earlier, one of his advisers, Moon Chung-in, had written in Foreign Affairs magazine that after a treaty was signed, it would be "difficult to justify (U.S. forces) continuing presence in South Korea.”

The office of President Moon reportedly told special adviser Moon “not to cause any more confusion.”

Initially, North Korea had made a U.S. withdrawal a necessary requirement before it would agree to give up its nuclear weapons. However, on April 20, Moon revealed, “North Korea has expressed willingness to give up its nuclear program without making [a] demand that the [US Forces Korea] forces withdraw from the Korean Peninsula.”

Moon added that a complete withdrawal from South Korea would be a “condition that the U.S. cannot accept.”

Is a treaty a real possibility?

Nobody knows for sure, but this may be the closest that the process has come in a long time. After a historic meeting on Friday in the Demilitarized Zone between President Moon and North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un, both sides have publicly talked about what it would take to formally end the war.

Among the most crucial points in any potential deal between the two nations is a denuclearized North Korea. Over the past few years, Kim has openly and defiantly tested nuclear weapons. However, shortly before the peace talks began, he announced that he would be shutting down his Punggye-ri testing site for nuclear weapons.

Two groups of Chinese scientists speculated that this may have at least partly been because he may have inadvertently collapsed a mountain.

One last thing…
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