May 02, 2018 12:31
The withdrawal of U.S. troops from South Korea could eventually be on the agenda in negotiations with North Korea about a peace treaty formally ending the Korean War.
NBC reported on April 30 that U.S. President Donald Trump, who believes South Korea does not pay enough for the USFK upkeep, entertained the idea of pulling out but aides persuaded him to change his mind.
Moon Jung-in, President Moon Jae-in's security adviser, wrote in a column published Monday in Foreign Affairs magazine, "What will happen to U.S. forces in South Korea if a peace treaty is signed? It will be difficult to justify their continuing presence."
U.S. Secretary of Defense James Mattis said on April 27 the idea could be discussed between the U.S. and its allies and North Korea.
Moon Jung-in said once an agreement formally ending the Korean War and a peace treaty are signed, it will be natural for the USFK to leave because there will be no more raison d'être for it, which is also North Korea's position.
But President Moon said on April 19 that the North did not set USFK withdrawal as a precondition for denuclearization.
"There will inevitably some change in the nature and size of the USFK if a peace treaty looms large," said Park Byung-kwang of the Institute for National Security Strategy. But he added, "The presence of the USFK is essential here for the stability of Northeast Asia as well as the Korean Peninsula."
Prof. Park Won-gon of Handong Global University said, "Even if military tensions ease on the Korean Peninsula, the role of the U.S. and the USFK will be all the more important as a balancer to hold the military ambitions of China and Japan in check."
A researcher with a government-funded think tank added, "China and the North will share strategic interests in Northeast Asia once a peace treaty is in place, and they will shake up Seoul-Washington relations together and South Korea will face serious security challenges."
Cheong Wa Dae was quick to try and contain the fallout from Moon Jung-in's article. "U.S. troops stationed in South Korea are an issue regarding the alliance between South Korea and the United States. It has nothing to do with signing peace treaties," Cheong Wa Dae spokesman Kim Eui-kyeom quoted President Moon Jae-in as saying Wednesday.
"Cheong Wa Dae Chief of Staff Im Jong-seok also telephoned to Moon Jong-in to ask him not to create a confusion with his views that might not be in line with the president's stance," Kim added.
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