Home » Military Personnel » SECDEF Mattis: U.S. Military Not Leaving South Korea Anytime Soon

SECDEF Mattis: U.S. Military Not Leaving South Korea Anytime Soon

Defense Secretary Jim Mattis visits the Demilitarized Zone between North and South Korea in 2017. DoD Photo

THE PENTAGON – When President Donald Trump meets with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un in Singapore on Tuesday, they are unlikely to discuss removing U.S. forces from South Korea, Secretary of Defense James Mattis told reporters.

“The U.S. and South Korea are not engaged in any talks of reduction of forces,” Mattis said on Monday. “That would be a discussion between two democracies, the Republic of Korea and the United States.”

U.S. military forces stationed in South Korea operate under the auspices of a Status of Forces Agreement, originally signed by U.S. and the Republic of South Korea governments in 1966, and since updated.

Currently, the U.S. has about 28,000 military personnel stationed at several locations scattered around South Korea. The commander of Naval Forces Korea is headquartered on a South Korean navy base in Busan. The U.S. Navy also operates Fleet Activities Chinhae, the only U.S. Navy base in South Korea, located in the same city that’s home to the South Korean naval academy. The Marine Corps has one base, Camp Mujuk, in Korea. The bulk of U.S. Army and Air Force personnel stationed in and around Seoul.

The forward-deployed aircraft carrier, USS Ronald Reagan (CVN-76), maneuvers along the coast prior to a scheduled port visit in Busan, Republic of Korea on Oct. 21, 2017. US Navy Photo

The Navy also frequently sends ships to pay port visits to various locations on the peninsula, including Busan, Chinhae, Incheon and the island of Jeju.

As for changing the agreement, or force levels, Mattis said this would not include discussions from third-party nations.

“It starts with our two countries and that would be premature right now as we wait for the outcome of the negotiations,” Mattis said, nodding toward the television airing summit coverage.

  • DaSaint

    Nothing like your Defense Secretary not knowing what the heck (if anything) is being negotiated a few thousand miles away by his President, and its implications.

    Can we at least get a declaration of a formal cessation of hostilities between the US and North Korea regarding the Korean War? At least that seems like an easy lift, and that would be a good first start.

    • proudrino

      North Korea agreeing to get rid of their nukes is a good start. Nothing like burying the lead with your own partisan spin. Who says that Secretary Mattis doesn’t know what is going on in Singapore? It seems clear to me that he wasn’t there because this was a diplomatic mission best done without the Secretary of Defense at the table.

      • MLepay

        Nothing like burying the lead with your own partisan spin….really? look in a mirror lately? Had Obama met with the NK Dictator the right would have had a cow and probably impeached him. I hope for the sake of peace this does work out and I would be the first to give Trump credit for it. But until there is evidence of something more than photo op signing of a document that has pretty much been done before I will wait and see.

        • bob

          It’s always interesting to read ProudRino’s posts; he immediately goes into the default mode that anyone who questions POTUS MUST be a liberal, not sufficiently Republican, or patriotic enough to suit him. (Newsflash: I’m a veteran, a career fire service officer and pretty right of center. Just have little to no use for your guy Trump, who I’ve watched for the past 30 or so years. He’s a schmuck in love with himself, and both parties could have done better)

          In regard to your posts;

          1) The position of the United States up until now has been to not give the DPRK forum for recognition. Why? Because the Kim family has proven time and again that they know how to play a long game and survive. They will tell the West whatever we need to hear so they can survive.

          While I would hope that we aren’t being played here, the fact that U.S. policy has been to not unilaterally engage the DPRK without our allies for the past 60 years should have given any President, regardless of party pause.

          (Incidentally Obama followed the same policy that has been in place since Truman, and followed by every administration. This policy was not new or created under Obama.)

          2) Trump has previously indicated a nativist policy position. We have seen this with his very clear positions on NATO, as well as other world security agreements. The Republic of Korea and Japan both have good reason to be concerned that Trump could give the North everything they want, and simply to pull the troops out or dramatically reduce them.

          While I agree with the position of the SECDEF, and do believe that any withdrawal would require Congressional approval, I would not put it past Trump to offer up troop reductions to obtain a “win”. Nor do I put it past the Nativists in the Congress to go along with it. The pundits are already floating this as a “good idea”.

          3) History speaks volumes about written agreements, particularly among adversaries. Ask Neville Chamberlain how well his written guarantee from the Chancellor of Germany at the time worked out.

          Unless the DPRK agrees to a robust inspections program, pulls back their forces from the DMZ and agrees to a formal peace treaty, then this “signed contract” (Donald Trump during press conference this morning), is about as useless as the Munich Agreement.

          History has shown, pie in the sky, giddy declarations of “Peace for Our Times” usually result in young people going off to war shortly thereafter.

          • Duane

            Very good, Bob. You nailed every point. The Trumpkins and their Russian trolling allies, at least several of which are regulars on USNI comment pages, have attempted to redefine opposition to Trump as treason to the republic for only “far left” wackos, when the exact opposite is the truth. Putin, Xi, and now Kim own Trump and have flattered the insecure schmuck repeatedly into giving away the farm. Whether it is rescuing ZTE, a well know PRC spy front; to slow walking Russian sanctions levied on a bipartisan basis by Congress; or granting huge cringeworthy praise to a murdering butcher like Kim while giving away a prepared defense of ROK; not to mention blowing.up alliances and starting a trade war with our allies. There apparently is no amount of cringe-inducing behavior by this president that is too much.for his party.

            I am no Democrat, in fact in 44 years of voting I have never once voted for a Democrat to Congress, the legislature, or to the governor’s office. I pinched my nose and voted HRC but that was just an.anti-Trump vote … other than 2016 I voted the Republican candidate every election going back to Nixon.

            But right now I plan to vote a straight party line ballot for Democrats this November in hopes of restoring the republic from the GOP’s present bout with insanity. I hope enough of us do likewise, as tough love seems to be the only option until we are rid of Trump and his iron grip on the GOP … and a return to sanity.

      • DaSaint

        LOL! So I wrote what I wrote in the wee hours of the night. When you woke up this morning and heard the President’s comments, do you feel the same as the comments you posted at 7 something in the morning? There are enough reports/spin/news whatever you want to call it, but my comment was on point.

        And BTW, I’m all for getting rid of the nukes. Buuuuuttttttt, they didn’t and won’t for now. That takes considerable time to negotiate, then do, then verify. But I’m all for starting the process. Less nukes means less nuclear risk. Note I didn’t say less risk – I said less nuclear risk. We’ve had tons of wars without nuclear weapons.

      • DaSaint

        By the way – they could have at least come out with a formal cessation of hostilities! If that wasn’t possible, how much more difficult will the other asks be?

  • proudrino

    Outside of Democrats and the media (but I repeat myself), that idea isn’t even under serious consideration at this point. It’s a false story or “fake news” if you prefer.

    That being said, it is fascinating how the media is misreporting the events of the Singapore summit. If the President had been Obama the media would be demanding they rescind the winner of the 2018 Nobel Peace Prize and award it on the spot to our former Kenyan dictator. But since it is Trump, the reporting has been anything but fair when it comes to this agreement. It isn’t even close to a done deal but it is a huge step that Clinton, Bush 43, and Obama all tried and failed to take. In short, let us give credit where credit is due and pay attention to the details. We will know if and when it is time to bring US troops home from South Korea.

    • Duane

      No … according to leaks from high ranking members of the Trump administration, Trump himself suggested offering to withdraw US forces from ROK as a bargaining chip, and he was temporarily, at least, talked out of that by his national security advisor and SecDef.

      Trump in his post summit news briefing yesterday even admitted that removing US forces from ROK was under consideration, but wasn’t agreed to “right now”‘ For him to make that admission to the media is tantamount to surrender and treason, and proof that he wants to do so and thereby betray his country so that he can claim a Nobel Peace Prize.

      Here is a thought experiment for you Trumpkins: Imagine Obama doing and saying yesterday precisely what Trump did and said yesterday. How would you have reacted, honestly?

      I remember exactly what you guys and Republican leaders said back in 2007-2008 when candidate Obama said he would be willing to meet with Kim to discuss peace … You guys all roundly trashed Obama for such Pollyannish and dangerous peace talks, why reward an evil murderous dictator for his bad behavior with the honor of a meeting of heads of state, etc., etc., etc.

      I agreed with the Republican position then, and I thought Obama was foolish for such a naive approach to national security, and I was relieved when Obama’s advisors talked him out of such foolishness once he assumed office.

      But hey, apparently such talk netted Obama a Nobel Peace Prize in 2009, and that galls Trump no end that he doesn’t have one too.

    • FourWarVet

      If the withdraw of all US forces from the ROK is “not under serious consideration,” then why does President Trump keep floating the idea? He said it again at his news conference in Singapore, “I would like to see all 32,000 U.S. troops come home.” He said it in May of this year, April of this year and countless times before. That is not “fake news” it is recorded audio and video of actual words from Trump’s mouth. Just the same for the surprise–to our closest Asian allies–announcement to end “War Games” with the ROK.

      As to the first round:

      – US gets an historic photograph.

      – Kim gets sanctions relief, an end to US and ROK military exercises, an invite to the White House, weakened US and ROK alliance, and likely sanctions relief in the weeks ahead. Most importantly Kim gets legitimacy on the world stage.

      In a week where America’s closest allies were subjected to trash talk and threats — the kind words for Kim, Xi and advocacy for Russia to be readmitted to the G-8 make me wonder what *&%$ planet I am on right now?

      Smack yourself in the face and smell the cat food proudrino — this is not a win for America and the world we helped create in the past 73 years. I am beginning to suspect you are a Russian troll.

    • DaSaint

      This quote from the President isn’t fake: “I would like to see all 32,000 U.S. troops come home.”

  • MDK187

    More likely that Pompeo will make that decision and Trump will support it. Mattis himself will go the way of the Dodo. No tears shed for the fvking corrupt drunkard.

  • Duane

    Any withdrawal of forces from ROK would require Congressional authorization, even if Trump offered to do so. The chances of getting such Congressional approval are nil. Our forces there do not just deter North Korea but also deter PRC. They are a key bulwark in the defense of the entire West Pacific theater. A withdrawal from ROK would result in the near immediate collapse of the entire western alliance and would be a massive, almost unbelievable gift to Xi.

  • Duane

    The answer to that is no. Moon’s spokesman said so … It was not mentioned in the written four part agreement that contained exactly zero enforceable, concrete actions by either side.

    And it is obvious that Mattis would never have agreed to hamstring the joint US-ROK force by giving up the extremely critical semi-annual combined exercises in return for …. exactly nothing.

    The Trumpian gift to Kim was pulled out of his a*s, just like everything else Trump does. He bragged to the media that he made no preparations for the meeting, did not bother to bone up on Korean matters, and that he would rely solely on his own (enormous) gut for guidance.


    Trump loses nothing if Kim ditches his promises to denuclearize . Kim is now forced to choose. Either I denuclearize and transform my country or break my promises and risk utter annihilation. The United States has exhausted all the diplomatic tools . Only military options are left if Kim cheats this time .

  • Ed L

    Looking forward to the new US bases in Wosan and Chongjin

  • PolicyWonk

    When President Donald Trump meets with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un in Singapore on Tuesday, they are unlikely to discuss removing U.S. forces from South Korea, Secretary of Defense James Mattis told reporters.
    Mr. Trump again gave the farm away without eliciting so much as ONE concession from Kim Jong Un, who said that meeting with Mr. Trump was like “being in a science fiction movie”.

    The subsequent press conference(s) clearly demonstrated why Kim made the comment he did, because Mr. Trump obviously didn’t have the slightest idea of what he was talking about, what he was giving away, or arguably what planet he was on, for the entire world to see. Kim and his team studied and prepared hard for this “summit”, and were no doubt astonished at how little Mr. Trump knows about anything: it was like shooting fish in a barrel.

    The much hyped summit, while better than simply going to war, had Mr. Trump setting the bar high for success, claiming they were going to demand complete, irreversible, verifiable, denuclearization – and when Kim refused to sign on, Trump simply went along with the same, lame, and super ambiguous statements regarding denuclearization of the Korean peninsula – again giving Kim exactly that he wanted.

    Did you see the video made with US taxpayer dollars that Trump showed Kim? As cringe-worthy as it gets, and an appalling waste of funds that only serves to make the USA look as dumb as a bag of rocks. Whoever thought that was a good idea should be committed to an asylum for their own good.

    If Obama had done anything remotely like this, the GOP would’ve been right to impeach him, PDQ.

    After this crackpot episode, its a small wonder why so many of Trump businesses went straight from inception to bankruptcy. The WSJ was right: this man is completely devoid of any negotiating skills whatsoever, and either demonstrated complete functional cluelessness, or learning disabilities so severe they render him incapable of performing his job, or both. With “friends” like this on our side, the USA doesn’t need enemies, and our allies are right to be deeply concerned.


      He gave them nothing .The exercises can resume at any moment.This summit was about showing the world Trumps goodwill and desire for peace .It is up to the Norks now to choose . The diplomatic options have been totally exhausted. The Singapore summit was the last attempt to solve this diplomatically. Should they choose to resume hostilities Trump would be justified in claiming that he literally tried everything possible diplomatically.This will give him the excuse to crater the Norks.

      • PolicyWonk

        You aren’t even creative with your reply. It is clear you obviously haven’t got the slightest idea of what you’re talking about.

        Our allies, our military, and the international foreign policy sites around the planet are simply disgusted/horrified, for all the right reasons. Our enemies and potential adversaries are delighted.

        Trump gets a massive FAIL, Kim Jong Un garners complete victory – and it wasn’t even a challenge.

        Sorry – your excuses are beyond lame, bordering on delusional.


          You sound like a butt hurt democrap . Your bias and hate towards the Don is obvious. The only president to successfully convince the Norks and their Chinese puppet masters that its in their best interest to resolve this diplomatically. The norks need this more than we do .They know this president wasn’t mincing words when he threatened to destroy them back at the UN .They know this guy won’t hesitate to lunch a nuclear strike . That’s why they are negotiating. That’s why there will be a deal this time .This president puts his money where his mouth is . He did with Syria twice . He withdrew from the Iran deal and did most of the things he promised to do when running for president . The norks see that and are afraid as they should be . Trident missiles fly very fast .

          • PolicyWonk

            You are no conservative, because no conservative would tolerate incompetence on this scale. I don’t know what you are – but you’re no American.

            I wished Donald Trump every success in his presidency despite my voting for John Kasich (I considered Trump incompetence – and he’s done nothing to demonstrate otherwise): However, I despise incompetence; I despise traitors, I despise a president who collects emoluments in direct violation of the constitution. I despise racists. I despise those who sell this nation and its allies out to Russians.

            Your expectations for a chief executive are so low an ant wouldn’t have to lift its legs to step over them.

            I expect a chief executive to perform his/her duties to the very best of their abilities to further the interests of this nation and its allies. I expect them to do their homework, and thoroughly understand the nature of the negotiations they are entering in our name. This man completely fails in these respects.

            This is what the evidence clearly indicates.

            You are no conservative – so spare me the BRAVO SIERRA.