See More on Facebook

Diplomacy, Politics

US forces to stay in Korea even after peace treaty

The Korean government dismissed the idea of pulling US troops out of South Korea following a peace treaty with North Korea.


Written by

Updated: May 4, 2018

President Moon Jae-in said the issue of US forces stationed in South Korea should only be determined through consultations with Washington, and was not dependent on whether there would be a peace treaty with North Korea.

“US troops in South Korea are a matter of the South Korea-US alliance. It has nothing to do with signing a peace treaty,” Moon was quoted as saying by presidential spokesperson Kim Eui-kyeom in a televised press briefing.

Prior to the briefing, the government said the presence of the US Forces Korea plays a crucial role in meditating military tension in Northeast Asia, one of the most volatile regions in the world littered with territorial disputes and historic animosities.

The remark follows presidential special adviser Moon Chung-in floating the possibility of withdrawing the 28,500-strong US forces stationed in South Korea in the event of a peace treaty being signed by the two Koreas.

In an article published in Foreign Affairs on Monday, special adviser Moon said if a peace treaty is signed, it will be “difficult to justify” continuing US military presence in South Korea.

“What will happen to US forces in South Korea if a peace treaty is signed? It will be difficult to justify their continuing presence. … There will be strong conservative opposition to the reduction and withdrawal of US forces, posing a major political dilemma for (President) Moon,” he wrote.

Fueling the controversy is the allegation that US President Donald Trump had considered a plan to withdraw all US troops from South Korea until it was scrapped following strong opposition from White House chief of staff John Kelly.

Citing a number of unidentified White House officials, US network NBC News reported Monday that Trump had “heated exchanges” over the issue with Kelly before the opening of the 2018 PyeongChang Winter Olympics in February.

Meanwhile, US Defense Secretary Jim Mattis hinted last week that the future of the USFK could be up for discussion — an idea neither Seoul nor Washington deemed possible in the past — should a peace treaty be signed.

“That’s part of the issues that we’ll be discussing in negotiations with our allies first, and of course with North Korea,” he said, responding to a question on if US will maintain military presence on the Korean Peninsula if a peace treaty is signed.

But Mattis appeared to take step back, saying, “I think for right now we just have to go along with the process, have the negotiations and not try to make preconditions or presumptions about how it’s going to go.”

Security experts said that future US military presence in South Korea can only be adjusted through consultation with Washington — regardless of whether there will be the signing of a peace treaty with North Korea.

Such an idea is well reflected in the mutual defense treaty between South Korea and the US adopted in October 1953, months after the US-led United Nations Command signed an armistice agreement with North Korea and China, an analyst said.

Under the mutual defense treaty, South Korea and the US are required to come to each other’s aid in the event of an armed attack in the Pacific area or any territories under both parties’ administrative control.

“The South Korea-US defense treaty is not solely designed to defend aggressions from North Korea,” said Shin Beom-chul, a senior fellow at the Asan Institute for Policy Studies, a Seoul-based research institute.

David Maxwell, a retired US Army Special Forces colonel and fellow at the Institute of Korean American Studies, agreed that withdrawal of the USFK would only be based on a decision by the allies’ governments and their security assessment.

In an interview with Voice of America, Maxwell noted there are other countries that have maintained US military presence even after the end of the war, such as Japan and some European countries following World War II and the Cold War, respectively.

The South Korean government said the USFK will assume a more important role when it comes to maintaining stability on the Korean Peninsula, particularly when there are serious discussions about declaring an end to the Korean War and signing a peace treaty.

“Maintaining peace on the Korean Peninsula will become more important than before. … In that regard, the roles of the South Korea-US alliance and the USFK will be crucial,” a senior official from the Unification Ministry told reporters under the condition of anonymity.

North Korea had long demanded the withdrawal of US troops from South Korea as a precondition for the North’s denuclearization, though there are speculations that Pyongyang has changed its stance lately.

After meeting with North Korea’s leader Kim Jong-un in March, South Korea’s national security advisor Chung Eui-yong said Kim did not raise the issue of USFK presence as a condition for nuclear dialogues.

During the meeting with the chiefs of media outlets last month, President Moon said North Korea did not demand the withdrawal of USFK as a security guarantee in return for giving up its nuclear arsenal.

“North Korea can demand South Korea reduce the deployment of US strategic assets, but I don’t think they will demand the withdrawal or drawdown of USFK,” said Cheong Seong-chang, a senior researcher at the Sejong Institute.



Enjoyed this story? Share it.


The Korea Herald
About the Author: The Korea Herald is the nation’s largest English-language daily and the country’s sole member of the Asia News Network.

Eastern Briefings

All you need to know about Asia


Our Eastern Briefings Newsletter presents curated stories from 22 Asian newspapers from South, Southeast and Northeast Asia.

Sign up and stay updated with the latest news.



By providing us with your email address, you agree to our Privacy Policy and Terms of Service.

View Today's Newsletter Here

Diplomacy, Politics

Can Pakistan play a role in Iran-US tensions

An editorial in Dawn newspaper looks at the role that Pakistan might play in the ongoing tensions. Tensions between the US and Iran, particularly in the Gulf, are rising and the situation has sent alarm bells ringing throughout the region. It is in this context that Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi said on Tuesday that Pakistan was “closely following the situation” and would take a stand “that best served the national interest”. Pakistan is, of course, in a sensitive position as it has decades-old, deep relations with the US, while it shares a long border with Iran. Moreover, this country’s ties with the Gulf Arabs — particularly the Saudis — who are firmly in the American camp, are also cordial and have a strategic and defence dimension. In case of any hostilities


By Dawn
May 17, 2019

Diplomacy, Politics

China vows action as US moves to blacklist Huawei

Hopes of a trade deal recede as experts fear American companies could face a backlash. China has slammed the United States for putting technology giant Huawei on an export blacklist and said it will take “all necessary measures” to protect the legal rights of Chinese firms. The latest twist in the face-off between the US and China not only suggests that hopes of a trade deal are fast evaporating, but it could also delay the roll-out of 5G networks worldwide. US technology firms could also face a backlash, experts said. China’s Ministry of Commerce said yesterday that it resolutely opposed any coun


By The Straits Times
May 17, 2019

Diplomacy, Politics

Beijing stresses equality in trade talks with Washington

World market confidence dampened by escalation, Chinese state media says. Consultations between China and the United States are not a one-way street, and should be conducted amid a spirit of equality, State Councilor and Foreign Minister Wang Yi said on Monday in Russia. Wang said that it is pointless for one side to blame the other, or even to absolve themselves from responsibility. Wang stressed if one side is trying to place extreme pressure on the other, it will cause a legitimate counterattack. “The measures from us are not only to safeguard China’s own rights, but to protect the basic rules of the current multilateral trading mechanism,” Wang said. Wang made the remark in a joint news conference with his Russian counterpart Sergei Lavrov during his visit to the Black Sea coastal city of Sochi. Experts warned that the rising US tariffs on Ch


By China Daily
May 16, 2019

Diplomacy, Politics

Philippines government says no cheating in mid-term elections

Duterte’s government says left’s defeat was due to its own shortcomings. The loss of senatorial candidates and party-list groups backed by the Left should be a “wake-up call to re-asses their actions,” Malacañang said Wednesday. Presidential Spokesperson Salvador Panelo issued this statement as he dismissed the claim of Bayan Secretary-General Renato Reyes that the midterm elections were not that credible due to cheating. “We expect the likes of Bayan Secretary-General Renato Reyes to cry “cheating” and question the ‘Duterte magic’ following the crushing defeat of many left-leaning party-list groups and their candidate for senator, Mr. Neri Colmenares, in this year’s elections,” Panelo said. In a statement, Reyes said the “Duterte magic” was the “use of government resources to favor administration bets, use of the AFP and PNP to target and harass opposition gr


By Philippine Daily Inquirer
May 16, 2019

Diplomacy, Politics

Junta loyalists pack Senate in Thailand

The senate will have a key role to play in choosing the next prime minister. The National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO) took a major step towards retaining power by naming scores of people it patronises and who are loyal to it as constitutionally endorsed senators. Of the 250 names announced yesterday for the junta-picked Senate, 104 were military or police officers –retired and in service – while other figures included former members of junta-appointed bodies who had served the post-coup regime in the past five years. The move marks an about-turn for the junta, which had pledged to stay away from politics and had come to power promising to cleanse the country of corruption and nepotism. In addition to people from the Armed Forces, the senator list also included family members of junta leaders as well as close aides. The list includes General Pree


By The Nation (Thailand)
May 15, 2019

Diplomacy, Politics

Duterte drug war ’won’ in 2019 senatorial race

The mid-term votes seem to back Duterte’s government and his policies. President Rodrigo Duterte and his drug war “just won” as administration-backed senatorial candidates are poised to claim victory in the 2019 polls, Foreign Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr. said Wednesday. Locsin said Monday’s vote is seen as a gauge of public support for Duterte’s war on drugs. “The elections were a referendum on Duterte and his war on drugs. He & the war just won,” he said in a Twitter post. He added: “The Senatorial elections were not a referendum in favor of Charter change either, the death penalty, and jailing minors.” He said the public should already “shut up” on the matter as the drug war “goes on.” “So shut the f*** up on that subject everybody. The war goes on,” the foreign secretary said. In the latest update of partial and unofficial tally of vo


By Philippine Daily Inquirer
May 15, 2019