SEOUL, Nov 21 -- The United States reaffirmed its commitment to maintain the current level of US troops in South Korea during last week's annual defence ministers' meeting, Yonhap News Agency reported, quoting the defence ministry here Thursday.
It was the ministry's response to some media reports that the US is considering bringing a brigade home from the South should Seoul refuse to accept a fivefold increase, or around US$5 billion per year, in the upkeep of the US Forces Korea (USFK).
Negotiations are under way between the allies to renew the Special Measures Agreement (SMA) that stipulates their sharing of the cost for maintaining the 28,500-strong US troops. On Tuesday, the two sides cut short their latest round of talks as the US demanded a hefty rise in Seoul's payments by creating a new article in the accord.
"We are well aware of the reports, but it is not the official stance of the US government," Col. Roh Jae-cheon, deputy spokesman of the defence ministry, told a regular briefing.
Pointing to the Joint Communique adopted following the 51st Security Consultative Meeting between US Secretary of Defence Mark Esper and South Korea's Defence Minister Jeong Kyeong-doo on Friday in Seoul, the spokesperson noted the US' commitment to the continued stationing of its troops on the Korean Peninsula.
"The two countries share a firm notion regarding their roles and importance for peace and stability of the Korean Peninsula and Northeast Asia," he added.
According to the Article 7 of the joint statement, "The Minister and the Secretary noted that US forces in the ROK have played a critical role in maintaining peace and stability on the Korean Peninsula over the past 66 years, and reaffirmed that US Forces, Korea (USFK) will continue to play an important role in preventing armed conflict on the Korean Peninsula and promoting peace and stability in Northeast Asia."
ROK stands for South Korea's official name, the Republic of Korea.
It continues, "Given the current security environment, the Secretary also reaffirmed the commitment to maintain the current level of the US military personnel in the ROK and to enhance combat readiness."
Regarding the reports, the USFK is not immediately available for comment.