Pentagon provided options to reduce troops in KoreaThe Pentagon has offered the White House options to reduce American troop levels in Korea, the Wall Street Journal reported Friday.
Citing unnamed U.S. officials, the paper said the options were presented in March following a broader review of options for withdrawing troops from around the world, including in the Middle East, Africa, Europe and Asia.
The White House requested the review last fall, and by December, the Pentagon had come up with broad ideas, it said.
No decision has yet been made to reduce the number of U.S. forces stationed in Korea from the current 28,500, according to the WSJ.
A U.S. military official declined to tell the paper whether Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Gen. Mark Milley has informed his Korean counterpart about the review of troop levels.
The paper noted that the disclosure came as U.S. President Donald Trump recently decided to partially withdraw troops from Germany.
Following the news report, Korean officials are reportedly checking their diplomatic and military channels to figure out the U.S.'s stance on the issue, sources in Seoul said.
"At this moment, there is no discussion between the two sides regarding the U.S. forces in South Korea," said a military official who asked not to be named.
Another official said he was not aware of what was reported in the paper nor of U.S. Defense Secretary Mark Esper's recent comments on relocation plans of U.S. forces.
Local pundits predicted that the Pentagon is likely to explain its position on the United States Forces Korea (USFK) issue to Seoul's defense ministry soon.
Some have suggested there is a possibility of defense chiefs from the two countries discussing the issue directly. The two officials are expected to hold phone talks later this month.
"We are currently working to schedule phone talks between the two defense ministers," an official from Seoul's defense ministry said.
Meanwhile, Seoul and Washington have struggled to conclude a new agreement determining how much Korea will contribute to the cost of stationing American troops there.
Under the previous Special Measures Agreement, which lapsed at the end of December, Korea agreed to pay $870 million for 2019.
Trump initially demanded $5 billion for this year on the grounds that Korea, being a wealthy country, should pay more for its defense.
The U.S. is currently known to be requesting $1.3 billion after Trump rejected Seoul's offer to increase its payment by 13 percent from last year.
Observers say there is little incentive on either side to quickly reach a deal after the U.S. in June accepted Korea's proposal to pay the salaries of thousands of Koreans who had been furloughed from their jobs on U.S. bases.