N Korea demands US withdrawal


Beijing - North Korea has demanded that the United States withdraw its 37,000 troops from South Korea, claiming their presence were the main obstacle to progressing the reunification process, reports Miriam Donohoe.

A North Korean Foreign Ministry statement claimed that the withdrawal of US troops from South Korea was a pressing issue, "the solution of which brooks no further delay for peace and security in the Korean peninsula and Northeast Asia". According to the statement, issued through the official North Korean news agency, the troops were the "harasser of peace" and the main obstacle to improving Pyongyang's ties with Seoul and Washington.

The demand came as the United States and its two key Asian allies, South Korea and Japan, called on the North Korean leader, Mr Kim Jong-il, to fulfil his pledge soon to make a historic visit to South Korea. North Korea agreed on Thursday to a proposal to resume ministerial talks with Seoul, possibly next week.

Meanwhile Red Cross officials from North and South Korea will meet in Beijing this month to discuss exchanges of gifts among families separated by the 53-year-old division of the Korean peninsula.