Trump still holds Jimmy Carter’s view on withdrawing U.S. troops from South Korea

Less publicly, but still privately, Trump continues to say he doesn’t agree with the argument that U.S. troops in South Korea are strategically necessary, and he thinks the United States gets nothing back from paying to keep them there, according to administration officials and people who have spoken to Trump directly about the issue. He often asks his generals to explain the rationale for America’s deployments in Asia and expresses dissatisfaction with their answers…

The idea of reducing U.S. forces in South Korea is not new. Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld moved 10,000 troops from there to Iraq in 2004. There’s a contingent inside the Trump administration that would support some modifications — such as shifting from ground troops to naval and sea power — that could reduce personnel numbers.

But virtually all of Trump’s national security officials believe the U.S. troop presence in Korea is strategically crucial and must not be gutted. Some fear Trump’s interest is not in establishing appropriate troop levels, but in removing them entirely — without any clear strategic rationale for doing so.