Downsizing U.S. troops in S. Korea 'not at all mentioned' at defense talks: Seoul
Updated: 2020-07-21 17:07:33 KST
Scaling down U.S. troops in South Korea was "not at all touched upon" by the defense chiefs of South Korea and the U.S.
That's the confirmation from Seoul's Ministry of National Defense, after Defense Minister Jeong Kyeong-doo talked over the phone with U.S. Secretary of Defense Mark Esper on Tuesday.
"The issue of U.S. Forces Korea was not discussed during the phone talks today and has not been discussed in the past either. South Korea and the U.S. have a strong consensus on the role and significance these U.S. troops have for peace and security on the Korean Peninsula and in Northeast Asia."
The Wall Street Journal reported Friday that the Pentagon had offered the White House options on reducing the U.S. military presence in South Korea.
There were also remarks from U.S. Defense Secretary Mark Esper that Washington will review relocating its military in certain areas in the coming months, including in the Indo-Pacific.
However, Seoul says that the issue was not covered during the phone talks on Tuesday, though the two allies did talk about how to share the costs of stationing U.S. troops in South Korea.
There are currently 28,500 troops in the South.
Seoul and Washington have not been able to agree on a deal for this year.
The U.S. has demanded one.three billion U.S. dollars roughly a 50-percent increase from the previous year but Seoul has been trying to negotiate a 13-percent hike instead.
Meanwhile, U.S. lawmakers and former envoys to Seoul have criticized the idea of withdrawing troops.
Christopher Hill, who was U.S. ambassador to South Korea from 2004 to 2005, said that it would be "music to the ears of the North Koreans" and a "very bad idea" when considering the North's recent provocations.
Congressman Ami Bera said it'd be an "irresponsible decision," while Ben Sasse said it shows "strategic incompetence."
Oh Jung-hee, Arirang News.