President Donald Trump has ordered the Pentagon to prepare for reduction of the number of US troops in South Korea unless South Korea shoulders more of the cost, reported the New York Times on Thursday, citing several people has briefed on the deliberations. The reduced US troop levels are not intended to be a bargaining chip in Trump’s planned summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, in late May or early June, about Pyongyang’s nuclear weapons program, the Times said. The officials, however, said that a peace treaty between North and South Korea could diminish the need for the 23,500 US soldiers currently stationed at the peninsula but the full withdrawal of US troops was unlikely, reported the paper.
But a US National Security Council official told a visiting South Korean official in Washington that the report was false, via telephone, the South Korean presidential office said in a statement. The White House, however, did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
Lieutenant Colonel Christopher Logan, a Pentagon spokesman, said its posture has not changed. Former CIA Director Mike Pompeo, before taking office as US secretary of state, met Kim Jong Un last month and reported the North Korean leader has not demanded the withdrawal of all US forces as a precondition for the summit with Trump. However, South Korea said on Wednesday, the issue of US troops stationed in the country was unrelated to any future peace treaty with North Korea and that American forces should stay even if such an agreement is signed.