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TOKYO — Military technological advances and South Korea’s desire to be defensively independent could mean the United States will pull its troops off the Korean peninsula in the future, one Japanese expert on North Korea told reporters Friday in Tokyo.

Hideshi Takesada, a professor of the National Institute for Defense Studies, also predicted North Korea will continue to develop long-range missiles during a question-and-answer session at the Foreign Press Club.

“In the future, we shall see a … substantial reduction of U.S. forces in South Korea and maybe sometime in the future even possible withdrawal of U.S. forces,” Takesada said.

Takesada said South Korea doesn’t want to continue relying on the United States as a pillar in its own defense, even though the two countries agreed during a 2003 summit that their 50-year alliance will remain in place.

And the U.S. push for a global troop realignment — using technology to replace the age-old concept of a massive ground-force strategy — could mean the troops move off the Demilitarized Zone and out of South Korea.

He also believes that North Korea will continue to develop weapons of mass destruction, even though the intent is “not to wage a war” with the ownership of weapons of mass destruction.

Rather, Takesada said, Kim Jong-Il wants the United States to withdraw its troops and the South to relax its national defense. In that scenario, the North could push for a reunified Korea. If the United States intervenes with Kim’s plans, Takesada claims, Kim could threaten to bomb South Korea or even Japan.

“No matter how much the diplomatic negotiations may be conducted, I am convinced that Kim Jong-Il will continue to try to produce missiles which will have the range of 16,000 kilometers, which would include Washington and New York,” Takesada said.

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