The US’ plan of reducing American troops from South Korea has drawn harsh criticism from inside President Donald Trump’s Republican party, as well as from experts.
US media reported recently that the Pentagon had given the White House options for the possible reduction of the US troop presence in South Korea, amid a battle with Seoul in which Washington is demanding significantly more cash to keep the forces there, reports Xinhua news agency.
A US military official told the Wall Street Journal that the Pentagon reviewed the 28,500 troops stationed in South Korea, as part of a broader look at shifting deployments worldwide.
“It looks like Trump is serious,” Douglas Paal, vice president for studies at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, told Xinhua, adding that he believes the strategy is “disconnected and non-strategic”.
Brookings Institution Senior Fellow Michael O’Hanlon held the same view. “I think Trump is serious about the idea,” he said.
Troy Stangarone, senior director at the Washington-based non-profit Korea Economic Institute, said that there are good reasons to consider a restructuring of US forces in South Korea.
But in the absence of a vision for the future role for US troops there, “it is difficult to view this as little more than the latest effort to extract concessions from South Korea on burden sharing”.
“President Trump has been clear that he does not value US alliances in the same way that prior US Presidents have,” Stangarone told Xinhua.
The possible move was lambasted by Republican lawmakers, including Senator Ben Sasse, who said that any such decision was “strategic incompetence”.
Trump has caused much anxiety in Washington by threatening allies that he would remove US troops from various strategic areas.
Last month the administration announced it would pull thousands of troops from Germany, claiming that allies are not paying their fair share of NATO costs.
For his part, Trump has said that allies were taking advantage of the US, arguing that Washington has footed the defence bill for years for several allies.
This comes at a time when the White House has already cancelled a number of large US-South Korea military exercises in a bid to keep the nuclear talks on the Korean Peninsula going.