South Korean President Moon Jae-in says North Korea hasn't asked for the withdrawal of U.S. troops from the Korean Peninsula as a precondition for abandoning his nuclear weapons. If true, this would remove a major sticking point to a nuclear disarmament deal.

Moon said Thursday, however, that North Korea still wants the United States to end its "hostile" policy toward the North and offer security guarantees. It has typically linked U.S. "hostility" to the 28,500 U.S. troops stationed in South Korea.

North Korea has always said it needed to develop nuclear weapons because of the U.S. "hostility" embodied by the American troops in South Korea, 50,000 others stationed in Japan and the "nuclear umbrella" security guarantee that Washington offers allies Seoul and Tokyo.