- President Donald Trump reportedly considered withdrawing US troops from the Korean Peninsula.
- White House chief of staff John Kelly strongly opposed the idea and successfully changed Trump’s mind.
- Trump later floated the idea of withdrawing US troops during a public speech, citing a “very big trade deficit.”
President Donald Trump reportedly considered withdrawing all US troops from the Korean Peninsula – around 28,000 of them – before the 2018 Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang, South Korea, according to an NBC News report published on Monday.
White House chief of staff John Kelly strongly opposed the plan and managed to convince Trump to reconsider, according to two officials cited in the report.
The proposed withdrawal would most likely have been met with opposition from lawmakers in both the US and South Korea, as the US’s presence in the country is largely seen as a deterrent against an historically hostile North Korea.
Trump has previously floated the idea of withdrawing US troops from South Korea in March, one month after the Winter Olympics. During a fundraising speech, Trump justified his position by pointing to “a very big trade deficit” with South Korea, and claiming “our allies care about themselves.”
“We lost money on trade, and we lose money on the military,” Trump said.
“We have right now 32,000 soldiers on the border between North and South Korea,” Trump continued. “Let’s see what happens.”
South Korean finance minister Kim Dong-yeon addressed Trump’s comments and said it was not “ideal to link an economic issue with such an issue [the withdrawal of US troops].”
News of Trump’s consideration to withdraw US troops comes amid a report that Kelly has soured on Trump and the White House. Kelly reportedly referred to Trump as an “idiot,” and viewed his own role as one in which he must save Trump from himself, the NBC News report claimed.
In a statement on Monday, Kelly denied the claims made in the report and reaffirmed his “incredibly candid and strong relationship” with Trump.
“He always knows where I stand and he and I both know this story is total BS,” Kelly said. “I am committed to the President, his agenda, and our country.”
“This is another pathetic attempt to smear people close to President Trump and distract from the administration’s many successes,” Kelly continued.
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