President Donald Trump stated clearly Friday that “troops are not on the table” when it comes to negotiations with North Korea.
“I would like to save the money, we have 32,000 troops there, but the troops are not on the table,” he explained in an informal exchange with the press on the South Lawn. The president’s statements come amid a whirlwind of conflicting reports on the future of American troops in Korea.
North Korean leader Kim Jong Un and South Korean President Moon Jae-in expressed a shared desire to end the Korean War at their landmark summit on April 27, leading some observers to ponder the possibility of a U.S. troop withdrawal should peace actually happen this time around.
Moon Chung-in, special adviser to the South Korean president, argued Monday that it would be “difficult to justify” the America’s military presence on the peninsula if a peace agreement is reached. “The U.S. military presence in South Korea is a matter of the U.S.-Korea alliance. It has no relevance to any peace treaty,” South Korean presidential spokesman Kim Eui-kyeom revealed Wednesday, challenging Moon’s earlier comments.
The president “has ordered the Pentagon to prepare options for drawing down American troops in South Korea, just weeks before he holds a landmark meeting with North Korea’s leader,” The New York Times reported Thursday. A source close to the White House revealed that troop withdrawal is something that could happen in the future, but “not until long after the nukes are verifiably gone,” CNN reported. (CNN’s report has since been updated.)
White House National Security Adviser John Bolton called TheNYT story “utter nonsense,” explaining, “The President has not asked the Pentagon to provide options for reducing American forces stationed in South Korea.” The Department of Defense, which has stressed that the U.S. mission in Korea has not changed, also reportedly rejected TheNYT’s questionable report.
South Korean National Security Office chief Chung Eui-yong was informed by a White House NSC official that the reports of a possible troop withdrawal were clearly false, the Korea Herald reported, citing the South Korean presidential office. “A key official from the White House NSC has said the report is not true at all,” Yoon Young-chan, the presidential office’s chief press secretary, explained.
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