December 11, 2019 12:51
The U.S. Congress is taking steps to guard against President Donald Trump trying to pull American troops out of South Korea.
The two houses plan to put a clause in next year's National Defense Authorization Act prohibiting the executive branch from unilaterally slashing the U.S. Forces Korea below the current 28,500.
The move comes amid mounting concerns that the Trump administration could use the threat of troop downsizing or pullout as leverage to get Seoul to foot an exorbitant bill for keeping them here.
The armed services committees at the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives on Monday published a draft that said, "diplomacy, economic sanctions, and credible deterrence are essential to address North Korea's weapons of mass destruction program and the conventional threat North Korea poses to U.S. forces on the Korean Peninsula and to U.S. allies in the region."
The NDAA details the U.S.' annual defense objectives and budgetary priorities.
Congress has already barred the Trump administration from decreasing troop levels below 22,000 men.
But next year's NDAA leaves room for the Trump administration to slash troops in exceptional cases -- if it is in the vaguely defined "interests" of the U.S., if the troop cut can be proven to pose no threat to the U.S. and South Korea's security, or if South Korea and Japan agree to it.
The draft also proposes "mandatory sanctions on North Korean import and export of coal and other minerals and textiles, as well as refined petroleum products and crude oil up to certain levels, [and] penalizes banks that are already on sanctions lists with additional sanctions if they engage in illicit activity with North Korea."
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