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Pentagon Rejects Report US Pulling Forces From South Korea

By Carla Babb November 21, 2019

The Pentagon is rejecting a report that the United States is preparing to pull military forces from South Korea.

Chief Pentagon spokesman Jonathan Hoffman said Thursday there was "absolutely no truth" to reports that the U.S. was considering removing any troops from the peninsula.

Conservative South Korean newspaper Chosun Ilbo cited a "diplomatic source in Washington" saying the U.S. military was "preparing to withdraw one brigade" from the peninsula, if negotiations over payment for U.S. troops in South Korea did not progress. A U.S. military brigade consists of about 2,000-4,000 troops.

"Secretary (Mark) Esper was in South Korea this past week where he repeatedly reiterated our ironclad commitment to the ROK and its people," said Hoffman. "We are demanding the Chosun Ilbo immediately retract their story."

Talks between the United States and South Korea broke down Tuesday over Washington's demand that Seoul increase its financial contribution for hosting U.S. military forces on its soil.

South Korean negotiator Jeong Eun-bo told reporters the U.S. side walked out after a short session. James DeHart, the U.S. negotiator, said his team left because the proposals put forward by the Koreans "were not responsive to our request for fair and equitable burden sharing."

Seoul currently pays just over $890 million to defray the cost of the 28,500 U.S. troops stationed in South Korea defend the country against a possible attack from the North.

South Korean officials say the Trump administration wants to raise the amount to as much as $5 billion.

U.S. President Donald Trump has long complained that U.S. allies have not paid Washington enough for the bases and troops used for their defense.

Defense Secretary Esper said during his visit to Seoul last week that South Korea is "a wealthy country that could and should pay more to help offset the cost of defense."

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