OSAN AIR BASE, SOUTH KOREA, - The Pentagon on Thursday denied a South Korean news report saying that the United States was considering a significant cut to its troop numbers in South Korea if Seoul does not contribute more to the costs of the deployment.
“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,” Pentagon spokesman Jonathan Hoffman said in a statement, referring to Secretary Mark Esper, who earlier Thursday had said he was unaware of any such planning.
“Secretary Esper was in South Korea this past week where he repeatedly reiterated our ironclad commitment to (South Korea) and its people. News stories such as this expose the dangerous and irresponsible flaws of single anonymous source reporting. We are demanding the Chosun Ilbo immediately retract their story.”
In the story, Chosun Ilbo quotes a diplomatic source as saying the U.S. is preparing to withdraw one brigade.
A typical U.S. military brigade numbers about 3,000 to 4,000 troops. There are about 28,500 U.S. troops currently stationed in South Korea, which remains technically in a state of war with nuclear-armed neighbor North Korea following their 1950-1953 conflict.
U.S. Defense Secretary Mark Esper said he was not aware of any plans to withdraw 4,000 U.S. 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.
South Korea’s defense ministry said the Chosun report was “not the official position of the U.S. government.”
Under U.S. law, the United States’ troop presence in South Korea must not fall below 22,000 unless the Secretary of Defense justifies a further reduction to Congress.
The Associated Press contributed to this report,