Mattis on US troops in South Korea: 'We're not going anywhere'

Mattis on US troops in South Korea: 'We're not going anywhere'
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Defense Secretary James MattisJames Norman MattisOvernight Defense: Bolton heading to Geneva for Putin summit follow up | Pentagon spokeswoman under investigation | Trump statement on defense bill objects to Russia, Gitmo measures Pentagon spokeswoman investigated for misusing staff: report Hundreds gather in Yemen to mourn children killed in Saudi-led coalition airstrike MORE on Sunday said the roughly 28,000 U.S. troops based in South Korea are “not going anywhere.” 

“It's not even a subject of the discussions,” Mattis told reporters aboard his plane while returning to Washington from the Shangri-la Dialogue in Singapore.

Mattis added that other countries, including Canada, “are even putting people in. They're talking about bringing in light infantry, other troops of their own to show ... that we're all standing together.”

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President TrumpDonald John TrumpDems make history, and other takeaways from Tuesday's primaries Pawlenty loses comeback bid in Minnesota Establishment-backed Vukmir wins Wisconsin GOP Senate primary MORE last month said a forced withdrawal from South Korea is “not on the table,” in upcoming talks with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un. He was responding to reports that he had asked Pentagon officials to look at options for reducing troop numbers on the Korean Peninsula.

Trump has said, however, a future withdrawal could be possible, due to the upkeep cost of U.S. forces.

Trump, who canceled his June 12 summit in a letter to Kim late last month, reversed course on Friday and said the summit is back on schedule.

Mattis — who met with his Japanese and South Korean counterparts while in Singapore to discuss upcoming denuclearization talks with North Korea — said officials should “anticipate, at best, a bumpy road to the negotiations.”

He later told reporters “all negotiations are bumpy,” pointing to the on-again summit still scheduled for next week.

“You remember how we were going crazy — oh, gosh it's off when a bad letter comes in. And immediately it's back on?  Welcome to reality,” Mattis said. 

“We have more experience obviously than a lot of people do working like this together. So yes, it's going to be bumpy, but nothing late-breaking or too difficult.”