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S. Korea, US have 'firm shared understanding' on importance of USFK: defense ministry


South Korea and the United States share a "firm" understanding on the role and importance of the US Forces Korea (USFK), the defense ministry said Thursday, amid concerns Washington may try to cut USFK troop levels just as it did for troops in Germany.

The US military earlier announced the plan that calls for withdrawing about 12,000 troops out of 36,000 US forces and relocating about half of them to other regions in Europe to keep Russia in check.

Addressing the possibility that President Donald Trump's administration could come up with a similar plan for USFK, deputy ministry spokesperson Col. Moon Hong-sik said the two countries have not discussed any possible adjustment in the size of US troops stationed in South Korea.

"There have been no discussions between the South and the US about adjusting American troop levels in South Korea," Moon said during a regular press briefing. "South Korea and the US have a firm shared understanding on the role and importance of USFK for the peace and stability of the Korean Peninsula and Northeast Asia."

Talk of a possible troop drawdown from South Korea came to the fore last month when former US Ambassador to Germany Richard Grenell said in an interview that Trump was clear about his intent to bring American forces home from a number of countries, and he mentioned South Korea as one of them.

The Wall Street Journal reported earlier this month the Pentagon had offered the White House options to reduce American troop levels in South Korea.

US Defense Secretary Mark Esper later denied issuing any orders about a withdrawal of troops from the ally but said the military was looking at adjustments to deployments worldwide. (Yonhap)