Trump Hints at U.S. Troop Withdrawal from South Korea Over Cost-Sharing Issues

Written by Camilla Jessen

May.01 - 2024 12:12 PM CET

Trump suggests the U.S. could withdraw its troops if South Korea does not contribute more to support the US Forces Korea.

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Former President Donald Trump has hinted that the United States might withdraw its troops from South Korea unless the Asian nation increases its financial contributions towards maintaining the U.S. Forces Korea (USFK).

This statement was part of an interview released by TIME Magazine, coinciding with new negotiations between Seoul and Washington regarding South Korea's financial responsibilities under the Special Measures Agreement (SMA).

Defense Concerns

During the interview, Trump raised concerns about the strategic and financial implications of stationing 28,500 troops in South Korea, a country he described as very wealthy.

“We have 40,000 troops in a precarious position," Trump told TIME.

"It doesn’t make any sense. Why would we defend a very wealthy country?” he questioned, although he was actually referring to the 28,500 USFK service members.

Negotiations Underway

Recent discussions in Honolulu signal the start of negotiations aimed at renegotiating the Special Measures Agreement (SMA), set to expire at the end of next year.

These talks have been scheduled earlier than usual, partly due to concerns that Trump’s potential return to office could lead to tougher and more contentious SMA negotiations, potentially straining U.S.-South Korea relations.

During Trump's presidency, SMA negotiations were a major source of contention. He pushed for a significant increase in South Korea’s financial contribution to the costs associated with the USFK.

Since 1991, Seoul has contributed to the salaries of Korean workers in the USFK, the construction of military installations, and logistical support, which includes training, educational, operational, and communications facilities.

Observers note that these negotiations are crucial for maintaining the strategic alliance between South Korea and the United States, especially in light of North Korea's increasing military provocations under Kim Jong-un.

The outcome of these discussions could have significant implications for international military and diplomatic relations in the region.

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