Trump suggests U.S. could withdraw its troops if S. Korea does not contribute more to support USFK: TIME

May 1, 2024

Former President Donald Trump has suggested that the United States could pull out its troops stationed in South Korea if the Asian ally does not make more financial contributions to support them, U.S. magazine TIME reported Tuesday.

TIME’s release of its interview with Trump came as Seoul and Washington recently launched new negotiations over South Korea’s share of the cost for the upkeep of the 28,500-strong U.S. Forces Korea (USFK) under a deal, called the Special Measures Agreement (SMA).

“We have 40,000 troops that are in a precarious position,” he was quoted by TIME as saying. “Which doesn’t make any sense. Why would we defend somebody? And we’re talking about a very wealthy country.”

He was apparently referring to the 28,500 USFK service members.

Based on the remarks, TIME said in an article that Trump “suggests” the U.S. could withdraw its forces “if South Korea doesn’t pay more to support U.S. troops there to deter (North Korean leader) Kim Jong-un’s increasingly belligerent regime to the north.”

In Honolulu last week, Seoul and Washington held the first round of negotiations over a new SMA as the current six-year SMA is set to expire at the end of next year.

Observers have said that the allies had sought to hold SMA talks earlier than usual amid concerns that should former Trump return to the White House for a second term, he could drive a hard bargain over a new SMA in a way that could cause friction in the alliance.

During Trump’s presidency, the SMA negotiation was a major bone of contention as he demanded a hefty rise in South Korea’s share of the cost for USFK.

Since 1991, Seoul has partially shared the cost for Korean USFK workers; the construction of military installations, such as barracks, and training, educational, operational and communications facilities; and other logistical support.