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US, N. Korea not talking troop pullout from peninsula

WASHINGTON (Kyodo) -- The United States and North Korea are not discussing the possibility of withdrawing American troops from the Korean Peninsula, two senior U.S. administration officials said Thursday ahead of a second U.S.-North Korea summit next week in Vietnam.

At the Feb. 27-28 summit in Hanoi, U.S. President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un will seek to advance mutual understanding of "denuclearization," one official said in a teleconference.

Trump and Kim are planning to issue a joint statement after the meeting, according to a second official.

While Washington demands Pyongyang abandon all of its nuclear and missile programs, the two sides have not agreed on what denuclearization means.

It remains unknown if Kim has made a strategic decision to give up nuclear weapons and ballistic missiles, the second official said.

Resisting calls for a unilateral disarmament, North Korea has traditionally pushed for the end of the U.S.-South Korea alliance, the withdrawal of American troops from the peninsula and the removal of U.S. strategic assets that could be deployed in the event of a conflict.

The United States currently stations about 28,500 troops in South Korea.

While trying to develop a shared understanding of denuclearization, Trump will push for a freeze on all weapons of mass destruction and missile programs and for a road map to set expectations for negotiations going forward.

The first-ever U.S.-North Korea summit, held in Singapore in June last year, resulted in a vague agreement in which Kim promised to work toward "complete" denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula while Trump committed to providing security guarantees to Pyongyang.

The two sides have shown few signs of reconciling their differences, however, with the United States demanding that North Korea dismantle its arsenal with international verification and Pyongyang calling for a lifting of sanctions.

In what may be an effort to lower expectations ahead of the Hanoi summit, Trump on Wednesday hinted at the possibility of holding a third meeting with Kim.

Together with his remark Tuesday that he is in "no rush" to denuclearize North Korea, the comment suggests Trump and Kim are unlikely to achieve a breakthrough on ridding the country of nuclear weapons and ballistic missiles in the upcoming summit.

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