President Trump, in an interview with Fox News' Bret Baier, said that despite his call to bring back U.S. troops from South Korea, a military drawdown from the region is not being discussed as part of talks with North Korea's Kim Jong Un.
“I would love to get the military out as soon as we can because it costs a lot of money and a lot of money for us,” Trump told Baier aboard Air Force One on Tuesday. “I would like to get them home. I would like to, but it is not on the table right now. At the appropriate time, it will be.”
The U.S., which currently has 28,500 troops stationed in South Korea, has maintained a combat force on the peninsula since the end of the 1950-53 war and has used them in a variety of large-scale drills designed to sharpen skills and test troops' ability to operate effectively with their South Korean partners.
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Trump, following his historic Singapore summit with Kim, said the U.S. would end such military drills on the peninsula.
"We will be stopping the war games, which will save us a tremendous amount of money, unless and until we see the future negotiation is not going along like it should," Trump said in Singapore. "But we'll be saving a tremendous amount of money. Plus, I think it's very provocative."
The South Korean government, which views the presence of U.S. troops and the military exercises as important to regional security, seemed to express nervousness about Trump’s remarks.
"At this current point, there is a need to discern the exact meaning and intent of President Trump's comments," Seoul's Defense Ministry said, according to the Associated Press, adding that there have been no discussions yet with Washington on modifying military drills set for August.
A spokesman for U.S. Forces Korea said they’ve received “no updated guidance” in regards to military exercises.
But while Trump also voiced a desire to eventually bring back U.S. troops as well, he told Baier that the U.S. "is not drawing down at all."
"In fact, honestly, it was never discussed. I am sure he would like that. It was never on the table," Trump said.
The next scheduled major exercise, known as Ulchi Freedom Guardian and involving tens of thousands of troops, normally is held in August.
U.S. officials told Fox News that the military will continue drills in Japan, where it has twice as many troops. Long-range bombers will continue training flights from Guam.
The upcoming joint exercise in August is more computer-based training. More controversial are the annual spring drills -- such drills were canceled in the mid-1990s when other agreements were made with North Korea.
During his interview with Baier, Trump noted that the cooling of tensions between the U.S. and North Korea was a positive sign for China.
"I think China really would like to see no nuclear weapons," Trump told Baier. "Because look, whether you are semi-friendly with a nation or not, when they have nuclear weapons and you are that close, it can't be a positive feeling."
Trump added that China understands what his adminstration is doing in regards to North Korea and he has very good relationship with Chinese President Xi Jinping.
Fox News' Adam Shaw and The Associated Press contributed to this report.