Pentagon denies report that US mulling withdrawal of 4,000 troops from South Korea

Pentagon denies report that US mulling withdrawal of 4,000 troops from South Korea
© Getty

The Pentagon is pushing back against a South Korean news report that said it is considering withdrawing up to 4,000 troops from the country if Seoul does not increase its contribution to maintain U.S. troops on the Korean peninsula.

South Korea's Chosun Ilbo newspaper reported Thursday that top U.S. military leaders had discussed withdrawing a brigade from the area if defense cost negotiations do not go well, citing a “diplomatic source in Washington.” A brigade usually consists of 3,000 to 4,000 soldiers.

But top Defense Department spokesman Jonathan Hoffman said there was “absolutely no truth to the Chosun Ilbo report,” and demanded the paper pull the story.

ADVERTISEMENT

“[Defense Secretary Mark EsperMark EsperThe Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Facebook - Biden to update Americans on omicron; Congress back Former defense secretary Esper sues Pentagon in memoir dispute Overnight Defense & National Security — Presented by Boeing — Major Russia weapons test stokes tensions MORE] was in South Korea this past week where he repeatedly reiterated our ironclad commitment to the [Republic of Korea] and its people,” Hoffman said in a statement. “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."

The report follows the breakdown of talks between the U.S. and South Korea after the two sides failed to reach an agreement on how much Seoul should contribute for the 28,500-strong U.S. military presence in the country. 

The United States reportedly demanded that South Korea raise its annual contribution to $5 billion, more than five times what it currently pays.

South Korea in 2019 spent just under $1 billion on the upkeep of U.S. forces on the peninsula. U.S. troops have been based there for nearly 70 years — since the end of the 1950-1953 war between the North and South — and are meant to deter Pyongyang from attack as well as monitor the region.

Earlier this week, Esper said America was not threatening a U.S. troop withdrawal if South Korea doesn’t substantially increase its payments.

“We’re not threatening allies over this. This is a negotiation,” he told reporters traveling with him in Vietnam.

President TrumpDonald TrumpJudge rules Alaska governor unlawfully fired lawyer who criticized Trump Giuliani led fake electors plot: CNN Giuliani associate sentenced to a year in prison in campaign finance case MORE has long complained that South Korea does not pay enough and at times has suggested pulling all U.S. troops from the area.