As the summit with Kim Jong Un approaches, President Trump has asked for information on how to reduce the number of US military personnel currently stationed in Korea, according to the New York Times.
Trump has tried that once before, in January last year, but gave up on the idea after a heated argument with his chief of staff.
Several sources, including National security adviser John Bolton, have denied Times’ report, calling it “utter nonsense.” Yet, after the historic meeting between the leaders of North and South Korea last month and the prospects of signing a permanent peace deal, it is hard to see why US troops would remain on the peninsula, at least in numbers they are present today.
Even South Korea has admitted that in case of an official peace that would finally end the Korean War, there would have to be a reduction.
The North Korean side has been silent on the notion. Traditionally, Pyongyang has insisted on US army complete withdrawal from the peninsula before even entertaining the notion of denuclearization, but such demands were suspiciously absent from the Panmunjom Declaration, signed after the historic meeting between Kim Jong Un and Moon Jae-in.
North Korea currently has approximately 1,2 million troops under arms, more than 400 warplanes, and 3,500 tanks. Most of its equipment and armament is hopelessly obsolete and after years of sanctions, probably not very functional. The US, on the other hand, has 28,000 troops in South Korea. Their mission is to “deter aggression and if necessary, defend the Republic of Korea to maintain stability in Northeast Asia.” This huge number of troops has caused Mr. Trump to complain about the cost, often stating that South Korea shouldn’t be getting a free ride, despite the fact that most of the expenses were footed by the Seoul government. US Army Gen. Vincent Brooks even went on record to say that it is cheaper to station troops in Korea than it is in the United States.
The issue that has caused some concern is the deployment of US THAAD missile defense system. Critics say that the system isn’t designed to defend South Korea from Pyongyang’s missile, but its sole purpose is to decrease Chinese military power. Still, the system remains, despite strong protests from Beijing.