President Donald Trump has requested options for reducing the number of US troops in South Korea, the New York Times reported late Thursday, citing several people briefed on the matter.
The President’s request of the Defense Department comes ahead of his highly anticipated sit-down with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, expected to take place along the demilitarized zone (DMZ) between the two Koreas.
North and South Korea recently held their own historic summit, which included an agreement on holding talks over denuclearizing the Korean Peninsula and bringing a formal conclusion to the Korean War.
If the peace talks continue among countries, it could decrease the need for a US presence in the region, officials told the newspaper.
National security adviser John Bolton on Friday disputed the Times’ report, calling it “utter nonsense.”
“The President has not asked the Pentagon to provide options for reducing American forces stationed in South Korea,” Bolton said in a statement. The Department of Defense also denied the report in a statement.
A statement released by the office of the South Korean President Friday also refuted suggestions the US was considering a reduction in troop numbers. According to the statement, an official at the US National Security Council told South Korean National Security Adviser Chung Eui-yong the New York Times report was “not true at all.”
Chung had raised the issue Thursday night with Bolton in a phone call, an official familiar with the conversation told CNN. Bolton told Chung it was untrue that Trump is ordering plans to withdraw US troops, according to the official.
The official also acknowledged that Trump has publicly expressed frustrations at the cost and size of the US presence in South Korea and noted if the Korean War officially comes to an end, there would have to be some sort of reduction.