President Donald Trump gave another indication that he may be considering pulling some USA troops out of South Korea after he reportedly ordered the Pentagon to prepare options for a drawdown, according to a New York Times report published on Thursday. Their meeting in Pyongyang underscored warming ties and Beijing's desire to remain a key player in the Korean Peninsula peace process.
The president is preparing for a potential summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, tentatively scheduled for May or early June. "China supports ending the state of war on the peninsula", China's foreign ministry quoted Wang said.
The directive has rattled officials at the Pentagon and other agencies, who worry that any reduction could weaken the US alliance with South Korea and raise fears in neighboring Japan at a time the United States is embarking on a risky nuclear negotiation with the North.
"We believe that Mr. Trump can take them back on the day of the U.S".
For China, the recent meetings offer an opportunity for it to reinforce its importance in the region and ensure that its concerns and interests are respected in any future negotiations. China had largely sat on the sidelines while the two Koreas improved ties, until Kim made a secretive trip to Beijing to meet Chinese President Xi Jinping in late March.More news: Kanye West says the "Taylor Swift moment" damaged his career
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A spokesman for the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Col. Patrick Ryder, said he had no information about troop options being prepared for the president.
"If the promotion of denuclearization turns the regional situation chaotic, then that is not what people want to see", he said.
Though North had in the past sought withdrawal of the troops as a condition to give up its nuclear weapon, it recently dropped the demand. Analysts say China's sanctions may have helped prompt North Korea's diplomatic initiatives, although the secretive regime in Pyongyang has not commented publicly on the issue.
South Korea's presidential office said Friday that a U.S. National Security Council official had dismissed the report as false.
Separate from the negotiations aimed at curtailing Pyongyang's nuclear program and ending hostilities between the two Koreas, Seoul and Washington have been renegotiating the cost-sharing agreement for basing USA troops in South Korea, which expires at the end of the year.