Dem senators move to halt potential US troop withdrawal from S. Korea
A pair of Democratic senators on Wednesday introduced an amendment to the annual defense policy bill that would stop President Trump from withdrawing U.S. forces from South Korea without the Pentagon’s input.
The amendment “would help prevent the President from making a rash decision about troop reductions on the Korean Peninsula that negatively impacts our national security,” Sens. Tammy Duckworth (Ill.) and Chris Murphy (Conn.) said in a joint statement.
Introduced for the Fiscal 2019 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), the provision would stop a withdraw “unless the U.S. Secretary of Defense certifies it is in our national security interest and would not significantly undermine the security of our allies in the region.”
The amendment was introduced following Trump’s announcement Tuesday that the U.S. would cease its joint military drills with South Korea as long as talks with North Korea are ongoing. The halted exercises seem to be a concession to Pyongyang, which has repeatedly claimed that the drills are practice for a strike against North Korea.
Trump on Wednesday continued to tout his decision to suspend the military exercises as he returned from meeting North Korean leader Kim Jong Un in Singapore.
“We save a fortune by not doing war games, as long as we are negotiating in good faith – which both sides are!” Trump wrote on Twitter.
While a reduction in U.S. troops on the Korean peninsula was not on the table in discussions with Kim, Trump did say that “at some point” he wants “to get our soldiers out.”
Defense Secretary James Mattis on Monday said the U.S. will not pull any of its 28,500 troops from the Korean peninsula.
“We’re not engaged in any reduction of U.S. forces talks, and I think we all wait until after this settles and we go forward,” Mattis said of the talks between Trump and Kim.
Duckworth said any discussion of withdrawing U.S. forces from the Korean peninsula must be tied to concrete and verifiable changes in North Korea’s behavior “and it must be done in close consultation with our allies.”
Murphy, meanwhile, said in the statement that he’s “freaked out that the president will order troops out of South Korea only for North Korea to, once again, break their word.”
“I’m all for bringing troops home when North Korea no longer poses an existential threat to our friends, but that day is a long time from now — and Congress needs to have a say,” Murphy added.
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