Support our mission
President Donald Trump speaks before signing the National Defense Authorization Act of 2019 last month in Fort Drum, N.Y.
President Donald Trump speaks before signing the National Defense Authorization Act of 2019 last month in Fort Drum, N.Y. (Thomas Scaggs/U.S. Army)

SEOUL, South Korea — President Donald Trump drafted a tweet calling for the evacuation of family members of U.S. troops stationed in South Korea, nearly provoking a war with the North, the author of a new book about the administration said.

Americans on a major military base in Seoul took the reported revelation in stride, saying having family present is a boost for morale but they will do as ordered.

“If it’s for the safety of the families, the dependents and children, of course,” America Sotres said Monday as she had lunch in the food court at Yongsan Garrison with her soldier husband and 3-year-old twins. “It’s hard on families to be split up, but it’s like any other deployment.”

The tweet was proposed as tensions soared over Pyongyang’s nuclear weapons program, with Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un trading threats in a fierce war of words, Bob Woodward said in an interview with CBS News that aired Sunday.

It’s not the first time the idea has been raised. Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham called for families of military personnel to be evacuated in December, shortly after North Korea successfully tested an intercontinental ballistic missile.

Woodward called it the most “dangerous moment” of the standoff, which has subsided with a series of diplomatic moves that began earlier this year and peaked on June 12 with an unprecedented summit between Kim and Trump.

“He drafts a tweet saying ‘we’re going to pull our dependents from South Korea — family members of the 28,000 people there,’” Woodward said as he discussed his book “Fear: Trump in the White House.”

Woodward, whose reporting on the Watergate scandal led to the downfall of the Nixon administration, told CBS the tweet was never sent because of backchannel communications with North Korea that made clear that an evacuation would be a sign the United States was preparing to attack.

“At that moment there was a sense of profound alarm in the Pentagon leadership that ‘my god, one tweet and we have reliable information that the North Koreans are going to read this as an attack is imminent,’” Woodward said.

He didn’t provide more details in the interview that aired Sunday, but the Telegraph reported that the book claims the tweet was proposed earlier this year and “scared the daylights” out of Defense Secretary Jim Mattis.

The report was the latest in a series of excerpts released before the book hits book shelves on Tuesday.

Trump has denounced the book. The White House called it “nothing more than fabricated stories, many by former disgruntled employees, told to make the president look bad.”

Mattis, in a statement last week, said that derogatory comments about Trump attributed to him in the book "were never uttered by me or in my presence ... While I generally enjoy reading fiction, this is a uniquely Washington brand of literature, and his anonymous sources do not lend credibility."

The U.S. has maintained troops on the peninsula since the 1950-53 Korean War, which ended in an armistice instead of a peace treaty. Many bring their families with them.

Sotres, of Austin, Texas, said she was concerned when her husband was deployed to South Korea nearly a year ago but she wanted to keep the family together.

“There were sleepless nights,” she said, adding that after the recent moves toward peace “it’s fine.”

Army Spc. Sarai Fong, who brought her husband and four children to Seoul earlier this year, said they have participated in biannual military exercises preparing for the possibility of evacuations.

“I’m just blessed that they got to come with me, but we’ll do what the Army says is best,” she said.

Twitter: @kimgamel


stars and stripes videos

around the web

Sign Up for Daily Headlines

Sign-up to receive a daily email of today’s top military news stories from Stars and Stripes and top news outlets from around the world.

Sign up