Last week, the New York Times reported that Donald Trump had ordered the Pentagon to draw up plans for withdrawing American Troops currently stationed in South Korea.
Per the report, Trump’s proposal to draw down troop levels in the was not intended to be a “bargaining chip” the president could hold ahead of his so-called landmark meeting with Kim Jong-un. Admittedly, if there is a peace treaty between North Korea and South Korea, we would need fewer troops.
Trump’s primary argument for the necessity to start such planning now, well before the actuality of any peace accord, is because he reportedly doesn’t think the United States is “adequately compensated for the cost of maintaining” the current troop presence.
The White House is strenuously denying the report. John Bolton, Trump’s national security adviser, called The Times’ article “utter nonsense,” adding, “The president has not asked the Pentagon to provide options for reducing American forces stationed in South Korea.
Back in March, the president himself said: We lose money on trade, and we lose money on the military. We have right now 32,000 soldiers on the border between North and South Korea. Let’s see what happens.”
In response to those statements from Trump in March, South Korea’s finance minister, Kim Dong-yeon, remarked that it was not ideal “to link an economic issue” with a policy matter such as potential withdrawal of US troops.
But a lot has changed in the past couple of months. While war theater seems more intuitive to Donald Trump, it seems that he has taken a shine to the idea of himself as a broker of peace.