‘We need’ U.S. troops, Moon says

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‘We need’ U.S. troops, Moon says

The chairman of the main opposition New Politics Alliance for Democracy said on Friday that U.S. troops should stay on the Korean Peninsula even after the two Koreas unify in order to maintain regional peace.

Rep. Moon Jae-in, a former liberal presidential candidate, discussed his views on national security in a meeting with Gideon Rachman, the chief foreign affairs commentator for the Financial Times, according to party spokesman Kim Yung-rok.

“Because they are contributing to maintaining peace between the two Koreas as well as to the balance and peace in Northeast Asia, we need them,” Kim quoted Moon saying in response to Rachman’s question regarding whether the U.S. Forces Korea would be needed after unification.

“The role of the U.S. Forces Korea should be maintained after unification,” Moon said. “Until a joint security community in Northeast Asia is created, we need them.”

The 28,500-strong U.S. forces are stationed in South Korea to protect the country against North Korean threats under a mutual defense treaty, a legacy of the 1950-53 Korean War.

Moon also urged President Park Geun-hye, who narrowly defeated him in the 2012 election, to hold talks with North Korea’s young ruler Kim Jong-un before the end of the year.

“For the Park government to accomplish something before her presidential term ends, she must have a summit this year,” Moon said. “If the government shows it’s receptive, I will not hesitate to cooperate.”

He added that improved inter-Korean exchanges would contribute largely to both economies and help South Korea’s economy lead in Asia.

Moon, however, expressed skepticism toward Park’s North Korea policy, in which she called unification a “jackpot,” arguing that she did not appear to be sincere.

The new chairman of the liberal opposition party also criticized the Park government and the conservative ruling Saenuri Party for politicizing the recent attack on U.S. Ambassador Mark Lippert, which triggered concerns that the Korea-U.S. alliance may be damaged.

On March 5, self-styled anti-American activist Kim Ki-jong came after Lippert with a knife during a breakfast forum, leaving deep gashes on the ambassador’s face and left arm.

“The people believe this incident should not hurt the alliance,” Moon said.

“And although the United States and Ambassador Lippert responded calmly, the government and the ruling party tried to politicize it and harden U.S.-Korea relations.”

Earlier in the day, Moon also met with the Chinese Ambassador to Korea, Qiu Guohong, and accepted the Chinese Communist Party’s invitation to visit the country.

“I would like to visit China as soon as possible to discuss Northeast Asian affairs and bilateral relations,” he was quoted as saying.

BY SER MYO-JA [ser.myoja@joongang.co.kr]

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