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Mattis: US Troops in South Korea Not On Table at Trump-Kim Summit
Local Editor

The issue of US troop presence in South Korea will not be "on the table" during a summit this month between President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un, War Secretary James Mattis said.

US War Secretary Jim Mattis

"That issue is not on the table here in Singapore on the 12th (of June), nor should it be," Mattis said Saturday at the Shangri-La Dialogue, a security summit in Singapore, referring to the scheduled date of the historic summit.

North Korea has long demanded US troops be removed from the Korean Peninsula as part of a nuclear deal, but the US has been at pains to stress the issue is not a bargaining chip.

The US has about 28,500 service members stationed in the South.

Appearing before a group of senator earlier in May, Mattis was asked about the necessity of US military presence on the Korean Peninsula and the Pacific region.

"The presence of our forces there is a stabilizing presence," the Pentagon chief said. "The Americans are committed and this resonates among allies."

South Korea has said any reduction in the US troops level should be decided separately between the governments in Seoul and Washington.

While President Trump has also said that US troops were not part of the initial discussion with Pyongyang, he has complained about the expense.

"Now I have to tell you at some point into the future, I would like to save the money," Trump said recently.

The US-South Korean relationship has been at the heart of every political debate involving North Korea.

Seoul has indicated a willingness to join the summit between the US and the North if an invite is extended to President Moon Jae-in.

"We plan to make preparations [for a trip] when there is an invitation, though we still do not know whether there will be one," a South Korean official said Friday, according to Yonhap News.

Meanwhile, both US and South Korean officials continued to meet with officials from North Korea to prepare the summit after it was scrapped last week.

On Wednesday, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo held a discussion in New York with Kim Yong Chol, considered the right-hand man of the North Korean leader.

The senior North Korean envoy then traveled to Washington and met with President Trump at the White House. After the meeting, Trump said the Singapore summit was back on.

"We'll be meeting on June 12th in Singapore. It went very well," the president told reporters on the White House lawn on Friday. "We've got to know their people very well," he added.

However, Trump acknowledged that the summit might not lead to a final deal on North Korea's nuclear program.

"I never said it goes in one meeting. I think it's going to be a process, but the relationships are building and that's very positive," he said.

Trump is expected to press demands that North Korea abandon its nuclear weapons program. Kim John-un has said his country is committed to "denuclearization" in some form, but it is not clear what the US will offer to the North for it to bargain away its defense capabilities.

Source: News Agencies, Edited by website team

02-06-2018 | 10:06

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