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(LEAD) No discussions with U.S. on USFK troop reduction: defense ministry

Defense 14:44 September 06, 2021

(ATTN: ADDS more info in last 3 paras)

SEOUL, Sept. 6 (Yonhap) -- South Korea and the United States had no discussions on reducing American troop levels in South Korea, the defense ministry said Monday, after a U.S. House committee passed a bill not specifying a lower limit for the number of its soldiers stationed here.

On Thursday, the U.S. House committee on armed services passed a defense authorization bill that does not specify the lower limit for U.S. Forces Korea (USFK).

U.S. Congress began adding a lower limit for the 28,500-strong USFK in 2018, after then President Donald Trump started to use the troop levels as a bargaining chip in talks with South Korea over negotiations on how to share the cost for the upkeep of the American troops here.

An informed source has said the removal of such a clause was because the Joe Biden administration has no plans to reduce troop levels in the Asian ally.

"I once again stress that there were no discussions with the U.S. side on reducing USFK troop levels," deputy ministry spokesman Col. Moon Hong-sik said during a regular press briefing.

A foreign ministry official stressed that Washington has confirmed it has no intention to pare down the U.S. troop presence here.

"We don't think the removal of the clause means a policy shift of the U.S. government," the official said.

"South Korea and the U.S. share the firm understanding of the role of and the need for the USFK," he added.

This file photo, taken on Aug. 5, 2021, shows a U.S. military base in Dongducheon, north of Seoul. (Yonhap)

scaaet@yna.co.kr
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