SEOUL – The future of US forces in South Korea and the alliance they hold on the peninsula now seem to be based on the whims of a president whose real thinking on the subject remains a mystery to the people here
] The vicissitudes of American policy toward Korea were made clear by an article in The New York Times which said President Donald Trump had ordered the Pentagon to report on the possibility of a US drop in numbers of US troops from the current 28,500 to a much reduced level.
The deniers from Washington that Trump had ever made such a request were met here with unbelief. Among government officials and analysts with long experience of defending the South against the North, Trump is in principle just as interested as North Korea leader Kim Jong Un, who brings most of the Americans out of South Korea and leaves the US The South is on its own.
Worries over what Trump thinks are piling up ahead of a summit between Trump and Kim, which promises to mark a turning point in the history of the Korean peninsula, if not the region. The real question is how history will turn out for better or for worse, and which of the rival powers with a share of Korea ̵
The Americans The South Koreans believe US troops will gradually go home, no matter what Trump reaches with Kim at the summit.
That's enough to ask a question that keeps Koreans worried about what will happen if North Koreans ever invade South Korea, as they did in June 1950. For a long time, Americans were seen as "tripwires", but never as a deterrent to the invasion. As soon as the North Koreans crossed the tripwire, the South Korean military – about 600,000 troops in all service – was supposed to conduct most of the battles with strong air and naval forces from the US, supplemented by US marines from Japan and the limited number of US troops already here.
The "Trip Wire" scenarios are becoming increasingly important given concerns that Trump might think Americans are not needed at all.
"Trump has never stopped withdrawing troops since his inauguration," said Woo Jeong-seop, longtime research fellow at the influential Sejong Institute, which has close ties to the government. Trump had a decidedly "negative opinion" about the American presence in South Korea, Woo noted.
Trump's negotiating position with Kim will depend in part on what the South Koreans really think. Just because South Korea's President Moon Jae-in ended a week off with Kim at their summit in the truce village of Panmunjom, does not mean that Moon wants to see the back of the Americans in the foreseeable future, as we know Kim is such a strategic withdrawal Priority.
So the view of the South Koreans surrounding the moon is "not so fast", and at the moment South Korea's national security adviser, Chung Eui-yong visits Washington and speaks with his opposite number, John Bolton. Trump's National Security Advisor is a longtime hawk, and is believed to be very skeptical of Kim's commitment to "complete denuclearization," as he and Moon signed in Panmunjom.
It is also for this reason, by his spokesman, that an article in foreign affairs by a special adviser, Moon Chung-in, an academic with a long background of opposition to American forces, was quickly published here in which he wrote it would be "Hard to Justify" with the United States troops here after a peace treaty replace the ceasefire that ended the Korean War in July 1953.
Moon Chung-in's article, unrelated to President Moon, scared them here, but was quickly overtaken by the New York Times report. Trump himself called for a review by the Department of Defense of troop-reduction capabilities.
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The US initiated the process, at least symbolically, by pulling troops from Camp Casey between Seoul and the North Korean Line 40 miles north of here and also moving outside the historic Yongsan base in central Seoul. The US forces are now focusing on Camp Humphreys in the town of Pyongtaek, about 40 miles southwest of Seoul and near Osan Air Base, the second largest US Air Force base in the region, to Kadena on the southern Japanese island of Okinawa.
North Korea does not want US strategic assets in South Korea, "said Jin Chang-soo, president of the Sejong Institute." They want the US to announce the withdrawal. "Nobody expects such a sudden reversal of US involvement in South Korea Although the Unexpected is Expected Recently.
"If we have a successful denuclearization and an end to the Korean War, it will raise questions about the nature of US troops in Korea and whether we need to reduce them," Jin said, "We can also think about a peace agreement."
The process of converting the Korean War ceasefire into a peace agreement or treaty as demanded by North Korea promises to be incredibly complex.
An immediate stumbling block is that South Korea renounced the signing of the ceasefire, which closes after prolonged negotiations in Panmunjom of China, North Korea and the US of course, it would have to participate in talks on a peace treaty in which Russia and Japan could also participate
Trump and Kim are expected to be able to make a joint statement, but it is not yet clear where and when they will meet. Trump has said that he wants to meet Kim in Panmunjom after he has rejected the North Korean proposal that he go to Pyongyang. Kim is to sweeten the pot by agreeing to release three US citizens, all Korean Americans who were detained in Pyongyang unspecified charges. Reports are circulating here that they have already been moved from jail to comfortable accommodations, awaiting release. It is widely believed that they could even be issued directly to Trump, who would return them to the US as a symbol of his success in negotiating.
Uncertainty prevails over what Trump really thinks. "Diminishing troops will depend on geopolitical issues," Woo said. He anticipated "heated discussions" in both South Korea and the US, and portrayed key agencies such as the South Korean Ministry of Defense and the US Security Council with "different standards." Most confusing, he said, "We do not know." I know what Trump believes, and we do not know what the American Congress believes. "For the Americans, the key problem is removing the threat of Kim's nuclear weapons and missiles that could theoretically reach New York or Washington, but for the South Koreans, the threat of North Korean intimidation, if not invasion, is very different The South Koreans have been worried for years about the price they have to pay in a war, and have now worried about the price of peace.