Plan to reduce troops in South Korea draws skepticism in Washington
The White House is weighing the possibility of reducing U.S. troops on the Korean Peninsula. The move has drawn harsh criticism from inside U.S. President Donald Trump’s own party, as well as from U.S. experts.
U.S. media reported recently that the Pentagon had given the White House options for the possible reduction of the U.S. troop presence in South Korea, amid a battle with Seoul in which Washington is demanding significantly more cash to keep U.S. forces there in.
A U.S. military official told the Wall Street Journal that the Pentagon reviewed the 28,500 U.S. troops stationed in South Korea, as part of a broader look at shifting deployments worldwide.
“It looks like Trump is serious,” Douglas Paal, vice president for studies at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, told Xinhua, adding that he believes the strategy is “disconnected and non-strategic.”
Brookings Institution Senior Fellow Michael O’Hanlon held the same view. “I think Trump is serious about the idea,” he said.
Troy Stangarone, senior director at the Washington-based non-profit Korea Economic Institute, said that there are good reasons to consider a restructuring of U.S. forces in South Korea. But in the absence of a vision for the future role for U.S. troops there, “it is difficult to view this as little more than the latest effort to extract concessions from South Korea on burden sharing.”
“President Trump has been clear that he does not value U.S. alliances in the same way that prior U.S. presidents have,” Stangarone told Xinhua.
The possible move was lambasted by lawmakers in Trump’s own party, including from Senator Ben Sasse, who labeled any such decision as “strategic incompetence.”
Trump has caused much anxiety in Washington by threatening allies that he would remove U.S. troops from various strategic areas. Last month the administration announced it would pull thousands of troops from Germany, claiming that allies are not paying their fair share of NATO costs.
For his part, Trump has long said U.S. allies are taking advantage of the United States, arguing that Washington has footed the defense bill for years for several allies.
This comes at a time when the White House has already canceled a number of large U.S.-South Korea military exercises in a bid to keep the nuclear talks on the Korean Peninsula going.