"We must see the U.S. Forces Korea as a constant," Minister of Unification Lee Jong-seok said, indicating that the South hopes the U.S. forces would further stay in Korea even after the reunification, the Korea Times reported Thursday.
At a breakfast forum of Seoul National University's political science alumna at a Seoul hotel, Lee said that it is one of the two key conditions under which South and North Korea could work toward establishing a peace regime after resolving the North's nuclear issue at the six-party talks.
North Korean officials have often criticized the presence of the U.S. forces in the South but North Korean leader Kim Jong-il once said that he has changed his way of thinking since the end of the Cold War, expressing hope that U.S. forces would serve to maintain stability in the Northeast Asian region, according to some South Koreans who met Kim during the inter-Korean summit in June 2000 in Pyongyang.
Lee, who is in charge of the North Korean issues, added that the other condition for discussion of the peace treaty entails the matter of bilateral joint control of the inter-Korean border.