"US commitment to the Republic of Korea [official name of South Korea] remains ironclad and the US will continue to use a full range of diplomatic and military capabilities to uphold this commitment. This includes maintaining the current US force levels on the Korean Peninsula," Mattis stated.
The US secretary also stressed that Washington and Seoul would continue their work to achieve the complete denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula.
"As always in close consultation with Republic of Korea and other partners, our diplomats continue their work to achieve the complete, verifiable and irreversible denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula," he stated.
US troops have been deployed to South Korea since the 1950s. Currently, they amount to around 28,500 US soldiers. Earlier in the day, Mattis arrived at the South Korean capital of Seoul to hold talks with his South Korean counterpart Song Young-moo.suspended certain joint military exercises with South Korea, including Freedom Guardian drills, which had been scheduled for August. The US-South Korean joint exercises have been fueling tensions with Pyongyang as the latter considers them a threat to its national security.
Tensions on the Korean peninsula over Pyongyang's nuclear program started to thaw at the beginning of 2018. On April 27, South Korean President Moon Jae-in and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un held a historic summit in the truce village of Panmunjom and signed a joint declaration, agreeing to take measures to support international efforts aimed at denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula.
On June 12, US President Donald Trump and Kim met in Singapore, where they issued an agreement that requires Pyongyang to denuclearize in exchange for a freeze of the US-South Korean military drills and eventual sanctions relief.