SINGAPORE, The Pentagon chief made it clear Saturday that his country is not negotiating with North Korea on the future of American troops stationed on the peninsula.
Speaking at a security forum in Singapore, Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis, however, left the possibility open for talks with South Korea on the fate of the 28,500-strong U.S. Forces Korea (USFK) in the future in case of significant progress in efforts to reduce regional security challenges.
The issue of scaling down the U.S. military presence in Korea or withdrawing the troops is "subject to discussions" between the allies, the defense secretary stressed.
He added the issue is separate from the negotiations with North Korea.
"Obviously, if diplomats can do their work, if we can reduce the threat, if we can restore confidence-building measures with something verifiable, then of course this type of issue can come up subsequently between the two sovereign democracies -- the Republic of Korea and the United States."
His comments came hours after President Donald Trump met with Kim Yong-chol, a top North Korean official, in Washington D.C., a highlight of multi-channel consultations under way between the Korean War foes to lay the groundwork for their unprecedented summit.
Trump said he will meet with the North's leader Kim Jong-un in Singapore on June 12.
Source: Yonhap News Agency