- The Washington Times - Monday, June 4, 2018

Defense Secretary James Mattis dispelled any notion of American forces based at the Korean peninsula being pulled out of the region, saying the idea is simply dead on arrival at the Pentagon.

“We’re not going anywhere. It’s not even a subject of the discussions” between Washington and North Korean officials, who are hammering out details for a historic summit between the two nations on June 12, Mr. Mattis told reporters Su.

“Five years from now, 10 years from now, it could be up for review [but] that would be between a democracy called the Republic of Korea and a democracy called the United States of America,” he said during a briefing en route back to the U.S. after attending last week’s Shangri-La dialogue in Singapore.

Roughly 28,000 U.S. service members have been stationed at the Korean peninsula in support South Korean forces since the Korean War, according to the Pentagon.

But reports surfaced last month that the Trump administration requested options from the Pentagon on a possible drawdown or full withdrawal of American troops from the peninsula.

Mr. Trump and national security adviser John Bolton at the time vehemently denied that a U.S. drawdown from the Korean peninsula was being considered. But Mr. Trump has expressed concern in the past over the operations and maintenance costs tied to the decades-long deployment of American forces in Korea.

But none of those concerns were evident during Mr. Mattis‘ meetings with his Asian counterparts in Singapore this week. Washington and its military allies will continue to stand together on the peninsula, regardless of the outcome of next week’s bilateral talks between the U.S. and North Korea.

“You told us you’re not going. We know you’re not going,” Mr. Mattis said, relaying the sentiment from allied commanders in the region. “They’re talking about bringing in light infantry, other troops of their own [onto the Korean peninsula] to show … that we’re all standing together,” the Pentagon chief added.

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