Pentagon denies report U.S. mulls pulling up to 4,000 troops from South Korea
South Korea’s Chosun Ilbo newspaper reported that the withdrawal of a U.S. brigade, typically 3,000 to 4,000 soldiers, had been discussed with the top brass of the U.S. military in South Korea, citing an unidentified diplomatic source in Washington.
The report came two days after the U.S. broke off defence cost talks after demanding that South Korea raise its annual contribution for maintaining the U.S. contingent to 5 billion dollars, a South Korean official said.
More than five times what it pays now, in rare discord in the alliance, Pentagon spokesman Jonathan Hoffman said in a statement.
“There is absolutely no truth to the Chosun Ilbo report that the U.S. Department of Defense is currently considering removing any troops from the Korean Peninsula,” Hoffman said.
U.S. Defence Secretary Mark Esper said earlier he was not aware of any plans to withdraw troops from South Korea if cost-sharing talks failed.
“We’re not threatening allies over this. This is a negotiation,” he told reporters during a trip to Vietnam.
The White House did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
South Korea, which remains technically in a state of war with nuclear-armed neighbour North Korea following their 1950-53 conflict.
North Korea has also developed a missile believed to be capable of firing a nuclear weapon at the U.S. mainland.
South Korea’s defence ministry said the Chosun report was “not the official position of the U.S. government” while Foreign Minister Kang Kyung-wha told a parliamentary panel no cut in U.S. troops had been discussed.
The allies have for 70 years formed a buffer against North Korean aggression but their failure to agree on an increase in South Korea’s contribution to the costs of hosting the U.S. troops has raised questions about the deployment.
U.S. President Donald Trump has insisted that South Korea pay more – and has also suggested pulling the troops out altogether.
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