South Korea's top national security adviser on Friday rejected talk of a possible downsizing of U.S. troops on the Korean Peninsula.
Chung Eui-yong, chief of the presidential National Security Office, told reporters after meeting with his U.S. counterpart, John Bolton, that such talk was also unhelpful.
"I think it's unacceptable that the issue of the U.S. Forces Korea keeps being raised," he said before his departure from Dulles Airport near Washington. "At my meeting (with Bolton) today we reaffirmed the strength of the South Korea-U.S. alliance and our joint defense posture."
The New York Times reported Thursday that U.S. President Donald Trump had ordered the Pentagon to provide options for reducing American troops stationed in South Korea.
The report came just weeks before a high-stakes summit between Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un, during which the U.S. leader plans to negotiate for the dismantlement of the regime's nuclear weapons program.
Asked if he doesn't think the troops issue will be raised at the Trump-Kim meeting, Chung said, "That's what I expect."
"Certain media reports appear to have been completely groundless," he added.
The Times report said that the downsizing is not designed as a "bargaining chip" in Trump's talks with Kim, but a peace treaty between the two Koreas could diminish the need for U.S. Forces Korea.
"Now, I have to tell you, at some point into the future, I would like to save the money," Trump told reporters Friday. "But troops are not on the table. Absolutely."
Bolton issued a statement slamming the report as "utter nonsense."
Chung said he shared the outcome of last week's inter-Korean summit with Bolton and discussed ways to work together to ensure the success of the Trump-Kim meeting.
He and Bolton also started preparations for South Korean President Moon Jae-in's visit to the White House on May 22, the White House later said in a readout. The two leaders plan to discuss Trump's upcoming meeting with Kim.
"The two ambassadors reaffirmed that there are no plans to change the United States-Republic of Korea bilateral defense posture in the Republic of Korea," the White House said. (Yonhap)