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

President Xi emphasizes role of Hong Kong, Macau

Both Hong Kong and Macao were told to integrate with nation’s overall development. President Xi Jinping underlined on Monday the unique and irreplaceable role of the Hong Kong and Macao special administrative regions for China’s reform and opening-up in the new era. He also called on the two regions to better integrate themselves with the nation’s overall development. Xi’s remarks came as he met with a delegation of about 210 representatives from the two SARs who were in Beijing to celebrate the 40th anniversary of reform and opening-up. The position and role of Hong Kong and Macao will only be strengthened rather than weakened, Xi said. The two regions should continue to play a leading role and enable more capital, technology and talent to take part in the country’s high-quality development and in the new round of high-level opening-up, he said. People of the two regions should continu


By China Daily
November 13, 2018

Diplomacy, Politics

Report of NK’s ‘undisclosed’ missile bases not new, S. Korea says

South Korea’s presidential office on Tuesday played down a new report on North Korea’s “undisclosed” missile sites. South Korea’s government said that it’s going too far to call the North’s continued activity a “great deception” given that it has no specific agreement to dismantle or disclose the facilities mentioned in the report issued by Beyond Parallel, a group at the Center for Strategic and International Studies. The group said it has located 13 out of an estimated 20 missile operating bases undeclared by the secretive communist regime. “The dispersed deployment of these bases and distinctive tactics employed by ballistic missile units are combined with decades of extensive camouflage, concealment and deception practices to maximize the survival of its missile units from pre-emptive strikes and during wartime operations,” the report


By The Korea Herald
November 13, 2018

Diplomacy, Politics

‘Forced repatriation’ to pose security risk

International crisis warns that forced repatriation of Rohingya refugees could pose serious security risks. The International Crisis Group has warned of serious security risks of “forced repatriation” of the Rohingya, just as Myanmar and Bangladesh prepare for the November 15 return of the refugees sheltered in Bangladesh. In a statement, the Brussels-based global advocacy body said Rohingyas strongly opposed the repatriation move and would do whatever they can to resist it. “This [forced repatriation] will increase tension in the camps and could lead to confrontations between refugees and Bangladesh security forces and greatly complicate humanitarian operations. “A botched repatriation attempt could potentially set back peace and development efforts by years,” said the statement released yesterday. It comes two weeks after Bangladesh and Myanmar agreed to begin the repatriation


By Daily Star
November 13, 2018

Diplomacy, Politics

Suu Kyi stripped of Amnesty honour

The Amnesty International has stripped Aung San Suu Kyi of its highest honour, the latest of several honours taken away from her since last year’s brutal military crackdown on the Rohingyas. This is the eighth honour that the former Nobel peace prizewinner has been stripped of over the past year, with Amnesty following the example of Canada, US Holocaust Museum, UK’s Edinburgh, Oxford, Glasgow and Newcastle and Canada’s Carleton Universities which also revoked Suu Kyi’s honorary degrees and awards. The long-celebrated Nobel Laureate was given Amnesty’s most prestigious honour, the Ambassador of Conscience Award for 2009 marking the 20th anniversary of her arrest and 20 years since it declared her a prisoner of conscience. The AI yesterday announced withdrawal of its highest honour fr


By Daily Star
November 13, 2018

Diplomacy, Politics

Kim Jong-un’s Seoul visit unlikely this year: experts

Stalled talks between Pyongyang and Washington likely cause for deceleration of diplomacy. North Korean leader Kim Jong-un’s visit to Seoul appears to be less likely to take place this year without more progress in stalled denuclearization talks between Pyongyang and Washington, experts said Sunday. South Korea’s Moon Jae-in administration is pushing to hold the fourth inter-Korean summit between Moon and Kim in Seoul within the year, in the hope of facilitating a breakthrough in the deadlocked US-North Korea talks. One of the unexpected achievements from the third summit, which was held in September in Pyongyang, was the North Korean leader’s promise to visit Seoul within the year. President Moon said at his speech at the National Assembly earlier this month that Kim’s visit to Seoul will take place in the near future. Unification Minister Cho Myong-gyon said Friday at a parliamentary se


By Cod Satrusayang
November 12, 2018

Diplomacy, Politics

US calls on China to remove missiles from Spratly Islands

For the first time, the United States called on China to remove missiles it deployed on three fortified outposts it built in the Spratly Islands in the South China Sea. The United States called on China to withdraw its missile systems from disputed features in the Spratly Islands, and reaffirmed that all countries should avoid addressing disputes through coercion or intimidation,” the Department of State released in a statement on Saturday (Philippine time) after the high-level US-China diplomatic and security dialogue in Washington. Both US and China committed to supporting peace and stability in the South China Sea, the peaceful resolution of disputes, and freedom of navigation and overflight and other lawful uses of the sea in accordance with international law during the dialogue, it added.


By Philippine Daily Inquirer
November 12, 2018