Commenting on Korea’s Friday’s summit, Defense Secretary James Mattis said that the future presence of US troops on the Korean Peninsula could be “up for negotiation” if indeed a lasting peace deal is signed.
North and South Korea have agreed to work on a peace deal ending the Korean War. The Korean War started in 1950, and beyond a 1953 armistice is still technically ongoing. Some 30,000 US troops are deployed in South Korea.
Mattis said the future of US troops would be discussed “with our allies first, and of course with North Korea.” North Korea has already said they are not demanding a US pullout as a precondition of a peace deal.
With North Korea primarily interested in a promise that the US won’t invade, having US troops leave would certainly help with that. If a peace deal is reached, however, there will really be no reason for the US to keep so many troops on the Korean Peninsula, and may decide to start drawing them down.
Decisions to lower US troop levels, even when they don’t need to be somewhere, take time. That is likely what North Korea decided not to press the issue, knowing that the drawdown process will take much longer than negotiating peace.