(U.S. Army/Edward N. Johnson)

SEOUL/HANOI (Reuters) - The United States on Thursday denied a South Korean news report that it was considering withdrawing up to 4,000 troops from South Korea if it does not pay more for maintaining a 28,500-strong U.S. contingent deterring North Korean aggression.

South Korea's Chosun Ilbo newspaper reported that the withdrawal of a U.S. brigade, typically 3,000 to 4,000 soldiers, had been discussed with the top brass of the U.S. military in South Korea, citing an unidentified diplomatic source in Washington.

The report came two days after the United States broke off defense cost talks after demanding that South Korea raise its annual contribution for maintaining the U.S. contingent to $5 billion, a South Korean official said, more than five times what it pays now, in rare discord in the alliance.

"There is absolutely no truth to the Chosun Ilbo report that the U.S. Department of Defense is currently considering removing any troops from the Korean Peninsula," Pentagon spokesman Jonathan Hoffman said in a statement.

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SEOUL (Reuters) - U.S. Secretary of Defense Mark Esper pressed South Korea on Friday to pay more for the cost of stationing U.S. troops in the country and to maintain an intelligence-sharing pact with its other Asian ally, Japan, that Seoul is about to let lapse.

Speaking after a high-level defense policy meeting with his South Korean counterpart, Jeong Kyeong-doo, Esper also said the two countries must be flexible with their joint military drills to back diplomatic efforts to end North Korea's nuclear program.

But he stopped short of announcing any new reduction in military exercises that North Korea has sharply condemned.

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