US to Keep Current SKorea Troop Levels

SEOUL, South Korea (AP) -- U.S. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis reassured South Korea on Thursday that the United States will maintain its current number of troops on the Korean Peninsula.

"The U.S. commitment to the Republic of Korea remains ironclad, and the U.S. will continue to use the full range of diplomatic and military capabilities to uphold this commitment," he told Defense Minister Song Young-moo.

Mattis met with Song during a brief stopover on his way from China to Japan.

The U.S. has 28,500 troops stationed in South Korea.

His stop carried a clear message of reassurance to South Korea following the sudden cancellation of a major joint military exercise planned for later this summer.

Mattis said the U.S. commitment includes keeping "current U.S. force levels" on the peninsula.

The military exercise was cancelled after President Donald Trump's summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un.

Song said Kim's separate meetings with Trump and with South Korean President Moon Jae-in have laid the foundation for a permanent peace on the Korean Peninsula.

"If North Korea maintains its commitment to denuclearization and proves its willingness with actions, we will continue to devise measures to build mutual trust and establish peace," he said.

(KA)