National Security

U.S. Considers Troop ‘Adjustments’ in South Korea

Defense Secretary Mark Esper shakes hands with South Korean defense minister Jeong Kyeong-doo in 2019

The Pentagon is considering making "adjustments" to the American military presence in South Korea, the Associated Press reported Tuesday.

Though Secretary of Defense Mark Esper did not order a withdrawal from the region, he did announce the Pentagon’s more favorable posture to rotational deployment as opposed to permanent stationing. The strategy "gives us, the United States, greater strategic flexibility in terms of responding to challenges around the globe," Esper said.

Jonathan Hoffman, Esper’s chief spokesman, said the shift’s intention is to "remove some of the footprint of having forces forward deployed." He said the change would allow troops to train in more locations "instead of being in one country all the time" and would allow the United States to be "a little bit more unpredictable" in its deployment of military forces.

The shift in strategy comes as the Trump administration shows interest in changing worldwide troop placement. In recent weeks, strained relations with NATO allies have prompted the White House to reconsider the level of American troop presence in Germany.

There are 28,500 American troops currently stationed in South Korea, though the decades-long alliance between Washington and Seoul has weathered difficult straits in recent months. The White House has expressed frustration with the amount South Korea compensates the United States for its troop presence, which acts as a key deterrent to Pyongyang and Beijing’s designs in the region. 

North Korea has unleashed a new campaign of aggression against its southern neighbor as of late. Kim Jong Un's regime iced potential talks with the United States and South Korea and destroyed an office building used to liaise with South Korean envoys.

This all occurs in the 70th year of U.S. military presence in the Korean peninsula. "This year, we commemorate an important milestone anniversary for the Republic of Korea and the United States, as well as the many sending state nations who joined together for a single cause and stood side-by-side with the ROK forces to fight back against the North Korean invaders," said Michael Donnelly, commander of U.S. Naval Forces Korea. 

"The ironclad U.S.-ROK alliance was born in battle, strengthened in peace, and has been tied together in our shared history, standing in solidarity through the decades," Donnelly said.