The Seoul government on Friday reiterated that South Korea and U.S. remain firm on the continued presence of American troops regardless of any developments with North Korea.
The presidential office denied some media reports that U.S. President Donald Trump has ordered the Pentagon to prepare the option of reducing American troops in South Korea, quoting a key official from the White House National Security Council (NSC).
Yoon Young-chan, senior presidential secretary for public communication, said Friday that Chung Eui-yong, head of National Security Office who is currently visiting the United States, spoke with a key White House official and was told that “the reports are not true.”
Chung departed for the U.S. this week upon NSC’s request to discuss the U.S.-North Korea summit meeting whose details including the date and location will be announced soon.
The unprecedented summit - which comes after the inter-Korean summit last Friday between South Korean President Moon Jae-in and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un - is largely anticipated to produce an agreement to end the North’s nuclear weapons program.
In a historic April 27 inter-Korean summit that took place in the truce village of Panmunjom, South Korean President Moon and North Korean leader Kim agreed to bring peace and work to make the Korean peninsula nuclear-free with the goal of signing a peace treaty this year to replace the armistice that ended the Korean War in 1953.
Some political pundits, meanwhile, noted that U.S. President Trump in the upcoming summit may offer to downsize U.S. troops in South Korea, as their presence may lose justice under a peace treaty.
The question of downsizing U.S. troops in South Korea has raised uproar among conservative suspicious of Pyongyang’s intentions.
Moon Chung-in, President Moon’s special advisor for foreign policy and national security, in a column said it would become “difficult to justify” the presence of the U.S. Forces after signing a peace treaty, although the Blue House immediately said that the issue of U.S. troops has nothing to do with peace arrangement.
On Thursday, local time, the New York Times also reported that President Trump “has ordered the Pentagon to prepare options for drawing down American troops in South Korea” ahead of his landmark meeting with the North Korean leader, citing multiple sources. According to the report, the sources said “reduced troop levels are not intended to be a bargaining chip” in President Trump’s talks with North Korean leader Kim about his weapons program, but “a peace treaty between the two Koreas could diminish the need for the 28,500 soldiers” stationed on the peninsula.
The New York Times report also noted that officials at the Pentagon and other agencies “worry that any reduction could weaken the American alliance with South Korea and raise fears in neighboring Japan” ahead of the nuclear negotiation with the North.
By Kang Gye-man and Lee Eun-joo
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