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Trump proposed complete withdrawal of U.S. Forces Korea: Esper

Defense 01:46 May 11, 2022

By Byun Duk-kun

WASHINGTON, May 10 (Yonhap) -- Former U.S. President Donald Trump had repeatedly proposed completely withdrawing U.S. troops from South Korea, former Secretary of Defense Mark Esper said in a memoir released Tuesday.

The former U.S. defense chief also said Trump had made many of what he called "outlandish" proposals.

"Some of the things he was proposing were outlandish -- such as a "complete withdrawal of U.S. forces from South Korea" or the pullback of all military and diplomatic personnel from Africa," Esper said in the book, titled, "A Sacred Oath."

"None of this was in our nation's interests, and as I calmly responded with facts, data, and arguments, I saw some irritation in him -- I was the "new guy" pushing back," he added.

The U.S. currently maintains some 28,500 troops in South Korea.

Trump has earlier been said to have threatened to withdraw the U.S. soldiers from South Korea unless Seoul increased its burden sharing cost of maintaining the troops by up to five times.

Negotiations to set South Korea's contribution for the cost under the Special Measures Agreement had stalled for years under Trump, only to be settled soon after Joe Biden took office in January 2021.

Esper said the former president had also considered withdrawing all U.S. military dependents from South Korea amid a flurry of his heated exchanges with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un in early 2018, but with no apparent reason or justification.

"There was nothing to explain it. There was nothing to warrant it," wrote Esper, who was then serving as the secretary of the Army.

Esper noted the order, if it had been made, could have been interpreted that war was "on the horizon, if not imminent" on the Korean Peninsula.

"Most importantly, what would North Korea think? Kim would probably view a U.S. evacuation as a prelude to conflict," he noted, referring to the North Korean leader.

Esper said "someone" had talked Trump out of announcing the evacuation of U.S. military families out of South Korea.

bdk@yna.co.kr
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