Pentagon Denies Claims US Considers Pulling 4,000 Troops From South Korea

Pentagon spokesman demands South Korean paper retract 'dangerous' story

One day after the South Korean newspaper Chosun Ilbo reported that President Trump is considering withdrawing 4,000 US troops from South Korea, the Pentagon has made a point to deny that there was even a consideration of that possibility.

Pentagon spokesman Jonathan Hoffman says Defense Secretary Mark Esper had assured South Korea the military commitment was “ironclad.” Hoffman said the story to the contrary was “dangerous and irresponsible,” and demanded Chosun Ilbo retract it.

That’s probably not going to happen, as Chosun Ilbo quoted a source in the US diplomatic corps, and US special envoy Stephen Biegun appeared to confirm the story, saying South Korea mustn’t “get a free ride.”

That the Pentagon isn’t directly considering troop drawdowns, moreover, doesn’t mean they aren’t under consideration at other levels. With US officials trying to convince South Korea to pay $4.7 billion annually for the troops, there is clearly interest on some levels to present the risk that the US might leave.

Esper’s position that the US commitment is ironclad seemed to be informing a lot of South Koreans on the negotiations, suggesting that they have time to negotiate and don’t have to give in to US demands.

Author: Jason Ditz

Jason Ditz is news editor of Antiwar.com.