South Korea's foreign ministry on Tuesday stressed that U.S. troops on its soil are indispensable for the peace and stability of the region.
It was responding to speculation about the future of the 28,500-strong U.S. Forces Korea (USFK) amid a rosy outlook for regional security conditions, with the leaders of North Korea and the United States set for talks in Singapore next month.
Some already talk about the possibility of the U.S. scaling down its military presence here or pulling the USFK out of the peninsula.
Last week, the U.S. House Armed Services Committee approved an amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act that would effectively ensure the number of U.S. service members in Korea will not drop below 22,000 without a guarantee that any related measure won't significantly undermine allied security in the region.
Asked about the issue, the ministry's spokesman Noh Kyu-duk said the USFK has "so far played a pivotal role in the peace and stability of the Korean Peninsula and the Northeast Asian region."
Based on their powerful combined defense posture, the allies will continue to coordinate closely with each other in the process of denuclearizing the peninsula and establishing a peace regime, he added.
He would not elaborate on the government's position on the proposed U.S. bill.