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Report: Trump admin may cut US troops in South Korea

Camp Humphreys in South Korea. (Photo Credit: U.S. Army photo by Sean Kimmons)
July 17, 2020

President Donald Trump and members of his administration have been discussing reducing U.S. troops in South Korea, according to officials who spoke with The Wall Street Journal.

Talks of a potential troop cut comes amid friction over Trump administration demands that South Korean government do more to cover the cost of hosting those U.S. troops. There are currently around 28,500 U.S. troops in the country, which borders the reclusive nuclear state of North Korea.

Trump administration officials have declined WSJ requests for more information about the troop reduction and said no decision had been made. No specifics have been given for the number of U.S. troops that may be pulled out of South Korea.

A U.S. military official told WSJ that The Pentagon’s Joint Staff was reviewing the reduction as part of a broader examination of U.S. military deployments around the world.

Recent moves by the Trump administration lend some credibility to the potential troop reduction from South Korea. In June, reports emerged that Trump had ordered the removal of more than 9,500 U.S. troops stationed in Germany. Trump later indicated he wanted the number of U.S. troops in Germany cut by half.

“We want to bring troops from Syria, Afghanistan, Iraq, from South Korea, Japan and from Germany,” Rick Grenell, Trump’s former ambassador to Germany, said in comments regarding the troop reduction from Germany.

Grenell added at the time that Americans are “getting a little bit tired of paying too much for the defense of other countries.”

The troop reduction from Germany followed U.S. and German disagreements about Germany’s contributions to NATO. The potential troop reduction from South Korea appears to follow a similar set of concerns about the host country’s willingness to cover military costs.

The U.S. and South Korea have had agreements in place since 1991 detailing how South Korea would cover some of the cost to station U.S. troops in the country. Since taking office, Trump has however taken a different approach to the funding for military alliances and agreements and has called on South Korean President Moon Jae-in to contribute more.

“The president has been clear in the expectation that our allies around the world, including South Korea, can and should contribute more,” a senior Trump administration official told the WSJ.

Earlier in the month, Gen. Robert Abrams, the commander of U.S. forces in South Korea told the WSJ that plans to reduce U.S. troops in the country were only speculative.

Another military source speaking with the WSJ said that regardless of any Pentagon review, “we are confident that we will maintain our ability to address any threat on the Korean Peninsula.”

The potential U.S. troop reduction in South Korea comes amid some heightened tension with North Korea in recent months. Negotiations on a U.S. peace process with North Korea fell through after North Korean leader imposed a 2019 year-end deadline for any potential agreement. Since the passage of that deadline, North Korea has cut off talks with the U.S. and has increased weapons testing.

In June, North Korea also demolished a liaison office meant to facilitate greater cooperation between North Korea and South Korea.