Mattis Suggests U.S. Troops Levels Aren't on Trump-Kim Agenda

(Bloomberg) -- Secretary of Defense James Mattis suggested U.S. troops levels won’t be on the negotiating table when President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un meet in Singapore on Tuesday.

“I don’t believe” troop levels are on the agenda, Mattis told reporters at the Pentagon on Monday. Asked if he’d know if such discussions were planned, Mattis said, “Yeah, I sure would.”

A discussion about reducing the approximately 28,000 U.S. troops in South Korea “would be between two democracies” and “not something that other countries would have initial domain over,” Mattis said. “It starts between our two countries,” so any discussion “would be premature as we wait for the outcome of the negotiations” in Singapore, Mattis added.

Questions about troop levels arose after U.S. officials repeatedly said the Trump administration isn’t pursuing regime change in North Korea and is willing to offer undefined security guarantees to Kim’s regime. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo reiterated that promise during a briefing with reporters in Singapore on Monday.

“We’re prepared to take actions that will provide them sufficient certainty that they can be comfortable that denuclearization isn’t something that ends badly for them,” Pompeo said.

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