Pentagon Gave White House Options for US Troop Cuts in South Korea, Report Says

U.S. soldiers sitting on the grass on Camp Humphreys, South Korea.
On May 14, 2020, soldiers with Headquarters and Headquarters Company conduct Urban Land Navigation training on Camp Humphreys, South Korea. (Nickson Schenk/U.S. Army)

SEOUL, South Korea -- The Pentagon has given the White House options for reducing the U.S. military presence in South Korea amid a defense cost-sharing dispute between the allies, the Wall Street Journal reported, citing unnamed administration officials.

In the fall, the White House requested preliminary options for withdrawing troops worldwide, including Asia, the Middle East, Europe and Africa, the newspaper said Friday.

The Pentagon came up with broad ideas by the end of the year that reflected its strategy for competing with China and Russia, and its emphasis on rotational forces.

It refined a number of options, including some for South Korea, and presented them to the White House in March, one of the officials was quoted as saying.

The officials declined to provide details about contingency plans to cut the number of troops in South Korea below the current level of 28,500 and said no decision has been made, according to the Journal.

The report came weeks after President Donald Trump approved a plan to cut nearly a third of the 34,500 American troops in Germany, prompting worries in South Korea and other allied nations that they may face similar decisions.

U.S. legislators also have raised concerns, with Congress including restrictions on drawing down troops in last year's funding bill. Similar legislation is being considered this year.

Trump has frequently complained about the cost of stationing troops overseas and said he wanted to bring them home.

The United States and South Korea have failed to reach a new agreement for sharing the cost of housing the Americans on the divided peninsula after Trump demanded that Seoul increase its contribution as much as fivefold to $5 billion per year.

The previous deal, known as the Special Measures Agreement, expired at the end of the year, leaving the military to operate with Defense Department funds approved for critical projects and positions.

Seoul also agreed to spend about $200 million to pay the salaries of South Korean base workers to end a two-month furlough.

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