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New U.S. bill lacks minimum limit for USFK troop level, but for lack of need: source

All News 11:35 August 31, 2021

By Byun Duk-kun

WASHINGTON, Aug. 30 (Yonhap) -- A new draft bill on the U.S. defense budget does not specify a lower limit for the number of U.S. troops stationed in South Korea as the administration of President Joe Biden has no plans to reduce troop levels in the Asian ally, an informed source said Monday.

U.S. Congress had prohibited the use of U.S. defense budget to reduce the number of U.S. Forces Korea (USFK) troops for three consecutive years since 2018 through its annual National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA).

But the draft NDAA for fiscal year 2022, sponsored by the chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, Rep. Adam Smith (D-WA), does not have such a clause, according to the source, who spoke on condition of anonymity.

"The bill proposed by Rep. Smith currently lacks the clause that limits the use of U.S. defense budget to reduce the number of U.S. troops stationed in South Korea," the source said.

"However, both the Congress and U.S. administration are saying the clause has apparently been removed, because it is no longer needed," the source added, noting the Congress had only added the clause to the NDAA to prevent the former Donald Trump administration from reducing the size of the USFK.

Trump had often threatened to reduce U.S. troop level in South Korea while demanding Seoul pay more for the 28,500 U.S. forces stationed there.

The informed source here said the ban on the use of U.S. defense budget for USFK troop reduction may still be added to the final draft as the House Armed Services Committee will begin reviewing the proposed bill, along with those passed by armed services subcommittees on Wednesday.

The source noted similar lower limits for U.S. troops levels in Germany and Afghanistan have also been removed from the draft NDAA for the next fiscal year.

The U.S. Department of Defense is currently conducting a global defense posture review that may affect U.S. troops stationed overseas.

Defense Department spokesman John Kirby has said the U.S. remains committed to maintaining an appropriate number of troops in South Korea.

"Our global force posture review will be a chance for us to take a look at resourcing on the (Korean) peninsula and whether we have that right, given the threats, given the challenges and given the strategy that we want to pursue in the Indo-Pacific region," he said earlier.

"We remain fully committed to our alliance with South Korea, and part of that commitment means having appropriate readiness on the peninsula as we say 'Ready to fight tonight,' and that means having appropriate force levels."


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