US President Donald Trump has ordered the Pentagon to prepare options for reducing the number of US troops in South Korea, the New York Times reported on Thursday, citing several people briefed on the deliberations, reports Reuters.
Reduced US troop levels are not intended to be a bargaining chip in Trump's planned summit in late May or early June with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un about Pyongyang's nuclear weapons program, the Times said.
The officials said, however, that a peace treaty between the two Koreas could diminish the need for the 23,500 US soldiers currently stationed on the peninsula, the newspaper said.
A full withdrawal of US troops was unlikely, the officials said, according to the paper.
But a US National Security Council official told a visiting South Korean official in Washington via telephone the report was false, the South Korean presidential office said in a statement.
The White House and Pentagon did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
Trump has said the United States should consider reducing the number of troops in South Korea unless South Korea shoulders more of the cost.
Then-CIA Director Mike Pompeo, before taking office as US secretary of state, met Kim last month and reported the North Korean leader was not demanding the withdrawal of all US forces as a precondition for a summit with Trump.
South Korea said on Wednesday the issue of US troops stationed in the South was unrelated to any future peace treaty with North Korea and that American forces should stay even if such an agreement is signed.
Earlier, South Korea's national security adviser is in Washington to meet his US counterpart, John Bolton, ahead of an expected summit between US President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, officials in Washington and Seoul said.
The US National Security Council asked Chung Eui-yong to fly to the United States to discuss matters related to the summit, a South Korean presidential official told reporters on Friday.
The United States had asked that the visit be kept quiet due to the issues to be addressed at meetings there, said the official, who declined to be identified.
A senior administration official in Washington confirmed Chung's visit and his meeting with Bolton.
South Korea has been working closely with old ally the United States on efforts to rein in North Korea's nuclear and missile programs, with an easing of tensions in recent months after threats of war from North Korea and Trump.