According to an order that President Donald Trump issued to Pentagon, they will start the preparation to extract American troops from South Korea. This order was given only a few weeks before the leader of the United States meets with his North Korean counterpart Kim Jong Un.
This action has nothing to do with the meeting of two presidents. But if the negotiations between Trump and Kim go in the right direction, the need for 28,500 US soldiers on the South Korean soil will diminish.
The reason why POTUS wants to pull the troops from the south part of the peninsula is that the US has no benefits of having an army stationed there; that they spend more time protecting Japan than US interests; and that despite their presence there, North Korea managed to develop a nuclear arsenal.
This decision comes at the time when America and South Korea are negotiating on the subject of sharing the cost of US military presence in the SK. The talks are filled with tension as the expiration date of the current deal approaches. At the moment South Korea pays half of the cost which amasses up to $800 million a year. Trump’s administration demands that South Korea starts paying full price for US presence in their country.
The Pentagon and White House officials are worried that if the United States lower the number of their troops in South Korea, they could cause frictions between them and Seoul. They are also concerned about the Japanese reaction as they are also another country threatened by North Korean nuclear potential.
At the moment we can’t tell how much of the troops will be withdrawn as it is highly unlikely that they will remove all of the 28,500 military personnel. Leaving South Korea entirely would be unwise regardless of the fact that current negotiations with NK are going smoothly.
Donald Trump wants to denuclearize North Korea, and officials in South are worried that he could offer Kim troops withdrawal as the part of the deal. Jim Mattis, the Defense Secretary, stated that the future of US military presence in the SK is on the table: “That’s part of the issues that we’ll be discussing in negotiations with our allies first, and of course with North Korea. For right now, we just have to go along with the process, have the negotiations and not try to make preconditions or presumptions about how it’s going to go.”
The one who would benefit from the troop withdrawal the most is Donald Trump according to Victor D. Cha, a Korea scholar at Georgetown University. He bases his opinion on the fact that this move would save money for the US and it would be a valuable chip on the table with Kim. But what about its effect on South Korea? Mr. Cha said: “But from the perspective of the U.S.-South Korea alliance it would represent a major retrenchment.”
South Korea Government doesn’t want US troops withdrawn even if they sign a peace treaty with North Korea. On the other hand, if they do sign it, how would they justify US presence anymore? Talking about his subject Moon Chung-in, an adviser to the president said: “What will happen to U.S. forces in South Korea if a peace treaty is signed? It will be difficult to justify their continuing presence.”
After a meeting between North and South Korean presidents, Kim declared that he would stop insisting on the removal of the US troops as he wants focus turned to the economic matters of his country. But this no longer interests Donald Trump, as his goal is to reduce America’s spending. Since US presence started in SK, the nation has developed itself both economically and militarily. Same goes for Japan. Trump believes that these two countries should take care of their business by themselves as the US has more pressing needs for both their money and their army.
With his own words: “We’ve got our soldiers sitting there watching missiles go up. You say to yourself, ‘Well, what are we getting out of this?’ ”
Apparently, President Trump has made up his mind.