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Kenneth Bacon, spokesman for US defence secretary
"[US troops] have been a force for stability in the region"
 real 28k

Friday, 16 June, 2000, 09:49 GMT 10:49 UK
US keeping troops in Korea
Two Korean leaders
The two Korean leaders are optimistic about their future relations
The United States says it is keeping troops in South Korea despite progress in peace efforts between the Korean nations at this week's historic summit in Pyongyang.

North Korea has been anxious to see US troops leave the Korean peninsula as an early condition for improved relations with the South.

They have been stationed there since the Korean War ended in an uneasy truce in 1953.

Kenneth Bacon, spokesman for Defence Secretary William Cohen, said the US would like to continue with the "security blanket" provided by its military presence in the region and it was "premature" to speculate about withdrawing US troops.

Reuniting families

"There's a lot of reason for exuberance right now, but I think it needs to be somewhat wary or controlled," he said.

The Pyongyang summit was hailed as a success, with the two leaders agreeing to strengthen economic ties and begin reuniting families divided by the war.

Kim Jong-il
Kim Jong-il said "okay" to a visit from the Pope

Reports say Washington has decided on a partial easing of its trade embargo against Pyongyang imposed in 1950 at the start of the Korean War but it will maintain a ban on the sale of technology with potential military use.

The US has maintained its military presence since the 1950s and about 37,000 troops are currently stationed there.

US officials stressed that North Korea's missile threat still remained and the success of the summit did not affect the development of the $60bn US missile defence system, aimed to protect against attacks from "rogue states".

Tension has remained high throughout four decades. North Korea has been one of the "rogue states" commonly cited by the Pentagon, and the Communist state has repeatedly called for a withdrawal of US troops.

Papal visit

Following his return from the historic summit, South Korean President Kim Dae-jung said his North Korean counterpart had agreed to his request to invite Pope John Paul II for a visit.

A new dawn at the border, but razor-wire remains
He quoted Kim Jong-il as replying: "Okay then tell the Pope to come."

South Korean Foreign Minister Lee Joung-binn has been instructed to brief the Vatican on the issue.

Kim Dae-jung, who is a Catholic, had discussed a papal visit to North Korea in a visit to the Vatican in March, saying it would boost peace in the peninsula. He quoted the Pope as saying it would be "a miracle" if he could go to North Korea.

'Biggest event'

The unprecedented three-day summit between the two leaders has been described by Kim Dae-jung as "the biggest event of our history".

Kim Dae-jung in Seoul
President Kim received an emotional welcome on his return

The North Korean media have also hailed the "brilliant result" of the summit, saying it opened "a bright prospect for promoting trust and reconciliation".

Speaking on his return to Seoul, President Kim Dae-jung said: "I return with the firm conviction that unification can be achieved."

He revealed he had "fruitful" discussions on the North's nuclear weapons and missile programmes.

The two leaders signed an historic accord on Wednesday to reduce tension on the peninsula and encourage new investment by the South in the North's crippled economy.

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