U.S. Promises A Reduction of American Forces If North Korea Denuclearizes
kpride, Oct. 24, 2014, 11:29 a.m.
United States Secretary of State John Kerry recently announced that America would be willing to reduce the number of troops on the Korean Peninsula if North Korea denuclearizes. Speaking in Berlin, Kerry told reporters, "We've said from day one that if North Korea wants to rejoin the community of nations, it knows how to do it. It can come to the talks prepared to discuss denuclearization."
"The United States is fully prepared -- if they do that and begin that process, we are prepared to begin the process of reducing the need for American force and presence in the region because the threat itself would then be reduced," he added.
There is speculation about secret talks between Washington and Pyongyang, especially given the abrupt release of Jeffrey Fowle, one of three Americans detained in the North. Foreign Ministry spokesman Roh Kwang-il here struggled to downplay the issue. Roh said Kerry "made the remarks to urge the North to implement denuclearization in a substantive way. As far as I know there is no discussion at present about whether to cut the size of the USFK or maintain its current size."
He added that the two countries agreed in 2008 to maintain the size of the USFK at the current level of 28,500 troops. "And this has been reaffirmed continuously through the annual Seoul-Washington Security Consultative Meeting." Roh ventured that Kerry "may have meant that this is an issue that can be discussed when the North is denuclearized."
On a visit to Washington, Foreign Minister Yun Byung-se tried a similar line. "The reduction of the USFK will be discussed in the distant future when the denuclearization is realized," he said. "Despite Pyongyang's release of Fowle, it's too soon to conclude that there's been a sea change in the attitude of the North. And U.S. officials also maintain that there's no change in the U.S. policy," he claimed.
Washington also tried to play down Kerry's remarks. State Department deputy spokeswoman Marie Harf said, "He was restating our long-standing policy that we are focused on denuclearization of the peninsula, and obviously... over the long term, this is part of the discussion... But he was not, in any way, going beyond what we've said for a very long time about what has the potential to happen here."