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Senate committee submits defense bill with no lower limit for USFK troop level

All News 02:45 September 24, 2021

By Byun Duk-kun

WASHINGTON, Sept. 23 (Yonhap) -- The U.S. Senate Committee on Armed Services has submitted a defense budget bill that does not specify a minimum number of U.S. troops stationed in South Korea, the proposed bill showed Thursday.

The Senate National Defense Authorization Bill for fiscal year 2022 was released earlier this week, and is now set for a vote by a plenary session.

The bill, passed by the Senate committee in July, does not mention the lowest number of U.S. forces that need to be maintained in South Korea unlike three past National Defense Authorization Acts (NDAA) for fiscal years 2019-2021.

The House armed services committee passed its own defense authorization bill earlier this month that also does not specify the minimum number of U.S. Forces Korea (USFK) troops.

Rep. Adam Smith, chairman of the House armed services committee, however, has said the clause that had prohibited the use of the U.S. defense budget to reduce the number of USFK troops has been removed from the bill for the upcoming year simply because it is no longer needed.

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

Seoul and Washington concluded their prolonged cost-sharing negotiations in March, less than two months after President Joe Biden took office on Jan. 20.

Once both the Senate and House pass their own respective bills, the two houses will go through a reconciliation process to field a single bill that can be signed into law.

Meanwhile, the Senate armed services committee highlighted North Korea's nuclear ambition in a supplementary report to the defense bill.

"North Korea, while currently possessing a relatively modest nuclear arsenal when compared to the Russian Federation or the People's Republic of China, continues to pursue publicly announced plans to develop miniaturized nuclear warheads, tactical nuclear weapons, multiple independently targetable nuclear reentry vehicles for missiles, solid-fuel ballistic missiles of varying ranges, nuclear propulsion systems for submarines, and hypersonic boost-glide vehicles to threaten the United States and its allies in the region," says the report.

bdk@yna.co.kr
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