Sun, Mar 05, 2006 - Page 5 News List

North Korea asks UN to end the US' `illegal' 50-year presence in the South


North Korea is trying to use the US' proposals for UN reform as a means to end more than five decades of a US-led military presence protecting South Korea from attack.

In a letter circulated on Thursday that was addressed to Secretary-General Kofi Annan, North Korean Ambassador Pak Gil-yon called the US-led UN Command "illegal" and said it should be dismantled.

The UN Command in South Korea was created shortly after North Korea invaded on June 25, 1950, when the UN Security Council passed a resolution calling for nations to militarily assist South Korea.

About 15 countries sent troops to fight alongside South Korean and US forces to repel North Korean and later communist Chinese forces.

The 1953 armistice ending the war left the Korean peninsula divided with troops from the multinational UN Command and North Korea patrolling opposite sides of the heavily fortified Demilitarized Zone that separates communist North Korea from South Korea.

Today, the only foreign combat troops in South Korea are from the US, but other countries occasionally send liaison officers or their embassy military attaches to UN Command meetings.

Pak said he was writing to Annan to reiterate North Korea's position on the UN Command "in the light of UN reform."

The UN is in the throes of an overhaul of its post-World War II structures and management practices, and the US has made a series of reform proposals, as have other countries in the 191-nation world body.

"The United States, referring to UN reform, argued that peacekeeping operations that have not played a due role in ending conflicts and securing peace and stability, or have lasted longer than necessary, should be terminated," Pak said.

"In this regard, we hold that dismantling the `illegal UN Command' that has existed in South Korea for more than half a century is indeed the number one target of UN reform," he said.

"We cannot think of true UN reform if hangovers from the past century that do not have an actual relationship with the UN are left intact because the superpower has a hand in them," Pak said.

Benjamin Chang, a spokesman for the US Mission to the UN, said on Thursday that he had not seen the letter, but that generally speaking "real UN reform" begins at UN headquarters in New York. Officials at the State Department in Washington also said they had not seen it and could not comment.

While a cease-fire has been in place since 1953, the Korean War is technically not over.

Pak said the continued existence of the UN Command, which he claims was "fabricated unlawfully" by the US, "creates obstacles to the settlement of the Korean issue and damages the credibility of the UN."

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