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House committee passes defense bill with no lower limit for USFK troops: source

All News 01:36 September 03, 2021

By Byun Duk-kun

WASHINGTON, Sept. 2 (Yonhap) -- The U.S. House committee on armed services passed a defense authorization bill Thursday that does not specify a lower limit for the number of U.S. forces stationed in South Korea, an informed source said.

Committee Chairman Adam Smith (D-WA), who sponsored the draft National Defense Authorization Bill, however, has said the lower limit for U.S. Forces Korea (USFK) has been removed because it was no longer necessary.

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

"Both U.S. Congress and the administration are saying the clause has been removed because it is no longer needed," the informed source here said earlier, while speaking on condition of anonymity.

U.S. Congress began adding a lower limit for the 28,500-strong USFK in 2018, when former President Donald Trump began to use USFK as a bargaining chip in talks with South Korea over Seoul's share of the cost to maintain U.S. forces.

The source earlier noted the lower limit for U.S. troops in Germany has also been removed from the draft NDAA for the next fiscal year. Trump had also threatened to reduce the U.S. troop level in Germany unless Berlin paid more for the cost of stationing U.S. troops there.

Meanwhile, an annex has been added to the draft bill that would, if enacted, call on the U.S. administration to consider expanding its intelligence sharing program, Five Eyes, to include South Korea and three other countries, the source told Yonhap News Agency.

The Five Eyes program currently involves Australia, Britain, Canada, New Zealand and the U.S.

The final draft has yet to be released.

bdk@yna.co.kr
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