November 08, 2018 09:44
The U.S. on Wednesday denied that it plans to reduce its military presence in South Korea after remarks from its top military officer sent alarm bells ringing.
Asked about earlier remarks by U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff chairman Gen. Joseph Dunford that Washington will have to make "some changes to the military posture" if negotiations with North Korea make progress, JCS spokesman Patrick Ryder told Voice of America that it is not considering scaling down its defense posture in South Korea.
He said Dunford only meant that "the Defense Department is in support of the State Department when it comes to the ongoing diplomatic negotiations with North Korea."
Dunford alarmed Koreans by saying at a seminar, "Frankly the more successful we are in the diplomatic track, the more uncomfortable we will be in the military space. Because over time, this negotiation will take a form where we're going to have to start making some changes to the military posture on the peninsula. And we're prepared to do that to support of Secretary Pompeo and make sure that we get to the desired end state which is a peaceful denuclearization."
A government source here said, "He seems to mean that the JCS could be ready for the suspension of joint drills, the scale-down of deployment of strategic assets on the peninsula, or a partial reduction of the USFK, if there is progress in denuclearization negotiations and the Korean War is formally declared over."
Ryder added that the Pentagon has already taken measures "to support Secretary Pompeo's efforts" like suspending large-scale joint drills with South Korea earlier this year.
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