U.S. must also sacrifice to improve Korean relations

North Korea has been recently making conciliatory gestures toward its southern namesake and other members of the international community, apparently hoping to rid itself of its rogue nation status. Kim Jong II, North Korea’s dictator who some American officials have called reclusive and paranoid, met with South Korean President Kim Dae Jung last week in North Korea’s capital, Pyongyang. This summit meeting signifies a positive change for a country nicknamed the Hermit Kingdom, isolated from much of the world for the past 50 years. If the United States wishes to encourage the Hermit Kingdom’s friendly overtures, it must make a few concessions as well, beginning with its presence in South Korea.
The White House has already responded to North Korea’s change of diplomatic intent by saying it will lift economic sanctions that have been hindering the country’s growth since it invaded South Korea 50 years ago this month. In addition, Secretary of State Madeleine Albright plans to visit South Korea next week for discussions. As Pyongyang has shown its good will toward the United States in recent months by saying it will aid in the search for the remains of American soldiers killed during the Korean War, Washington should consider removing some of its 37,000 troops stationed in South Korea.
Although Kim Dae Jung has said the U.S. military base in Maehyang-Ri brings stability to the region, the American troops would have little use if the Hermit Kingdom continues opening up to the west. By simply considering this option, the United States would show its commitment to the region’s stabilization, sans the military.