Updated May 4, 2018

The high-stakes gamble of reducing troops on the Korean Peninsula

North Korean soldiers look at the South side of the border between North and South Korea on October 27, 2017. Photo: Jung Yeon-Je/AFP via Getty Images

Weeks before his planned summit with Kim Jong-un, President Trump reportedly pushed the Pentagon to consider reducing troop numbers in South Korea, reflecting his long-held conviction that the U.S. shouldn't subsidize other countries’ defense needs.

Why it matters: While Trump clarified that a drawdown was for future, not immediate, consideration, these reports could influence Kim's pre-summit calculations: If Trump seems eager at the outset to achieve peace and declare success by promising withdrawal, Kim might feel less pressure to sacrifice his primary leverage — his nuclear weapons and long-range missiles. 

Trump's push follows his call for a withdrawal from Syria, in keeping with his apparent belief that strategic progress should yield peace dividends (namely troop returns and reduced overseas expenditures). But he appears particularly skeptical of the value of U.S. forces on the Korean Peninsula, given both the South's developed economy and the North's continued pursuit of nuclear and long-range weapons despite the permanent presence of some 30,000 U.S. troops.

Aside from summit considerations, any troop drawdown would also incur a long-term strategic cost, hardening impressions that the U.S. is ceding its traditional leadership role. If confidence in U.S. power recedes, many Asian countries will confront a choice between deferring more to Beijing or developing military capabilities — including nuclear weapons — to protect against Chinese coercion. If Japan begins to doubt America’s security umbrella and goes nuclear, others will likely follow.

The big picture: For the past 70 years, America's presence in Asia has provided a check against countries tempted to use force to move borders, seize resources or redress historical grievances. U.S. abdication of its leadership role in a region riven by deep-rooted animosities could elevate the risk of catastrophic conflict.   

Ryan Hass is a David M. Rubenstein Fellow in the Foreign Policy program at Brookings.

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China reopens Wuhan after 10-week coronavirus lockdown

People wearing facemasks stand near Yangtze River in Wuhan. Photo: HECTOR RETAMAL/AFP via Getty Images

China has lifted its lockdown of Wuhan, the city in Hubei province where the coronavirus outbreak was first reported in December, according to the New York Times.

Why it matters: As cases surged in January, China took the draconian step of sealing off the city of 11 million and shutting down its economy — a response that was viewed at the time as only possible in an authoritarian system, but which has since been adopted by governments around the world.

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  1. Global: Total confirmed cases as of 1 p.m. ET: 1,381,014— Total deaths: 78,269 — Total recoveries: 292,973Map.
  2. U.S.: Total confirmed cases as of 1 p.m. ET: 378,289 — Total deaths: 11,830 — Total recoveries: 20,003Map.
  3. Trump administration latest: Trump removes watchdog overseeing rollout of $2 trillion coronavirus bill
  4. Federal government latest: Senate looks to increase coronavirus relief for small businesses this week — Testing capacity is still lagging far behind demand.
  5. States update: New York death toll surged to its highest one-day total as state predicts a plateau in hospitalizations.
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Trump removes watchdog overseeing rollout of $2 trillion coronavirus bill

Glenn Fine, acting Pentagon watchdog

President Trump on Monday replaced the Pentagon's acting Inspector General Glenn Fine, who had been selected to chair the panel overseeing the rollout of the $2 trillion coronavirus relief bill passed last month, Politico first reported.

Why it matters: A group of independent federal watchdogs selected Fine to lead the Pandemic Response Accountability Committee, but Fine's removal from his Pentagon job prevents him from being able to serve in that position — since the law only allows sitting inspectors general to fill the role.

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