Force Realignment in Korea to Benefit Both Countries, Powell Says
By Donna Miles
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Oct. 27, 2004 A plan to realign the U.S. troop presence and consolidate U.S. bases in South Korea promises to be a win-win for all parties concerned, while ensuring "a consistent and robust deterrent capability" on the Korean Peninsula, Secretary of State Colin Powell told reporters in Seoul Oct. 26.
Powell said the changes, decided through months of close negotiations between the two countries, "will return valuable urban land to our Korea hosts" while allowing U.S. forces "to adapt to the new international circumstances and take advantage of new military technology."
During a joint press conference with Korean Foreign Minister Ban Ki-moon, Powell said the benefits of the moves, both to U.S. forces and the Korean people, "will be worth the political and economic costs."
"We will have to spend a great deal of time in close consultations with each other determining how these costs will be distributed," the secretary said.
Powell said he looks forward to discussions between U.S. military and Korean Ministry of Defense authorities "in the very near future" to examine and renegotiate the Special Measures Agreement. The agreement covers cost sharing between the two countries for U.S. military operations in Korea.
"The SMA has been an important arrangement that has facilitated our presence in the peninsula," the secretary said. "But with these deployments that we agreed upon to change the force posture, obviously we will have to examine the SMA and renegotiate it."
Ban told reporters the redeployment of U.S. forces in Korea, as well as the overall Republic of Korea-U.S. alliance, "are being handled smoothly under close coordination between our two countries."
He said he shares Powell's assessment that the alliance "is as strong as ever" and that the two countries will continue to work together on a wide range of issues. These, Ban said, include efforts to prod North Korea to return to the six-party talks focused on a denuclearized Korean Peninsula.
"We would like to see the talks get under way again as quickly as possible," Powell agreed. "And that's the message I'm carrying back to President Bush from all of us here in Seoul, in Tokyo and in Beijing. And I'm sure that the Russians are of the same view."
Powell thanked the Republic of Korea for its "vital contribution to the global war on terror," noting its contributions to the coalitions in both Afghanistan and Iraq.
"We greatly value the personal leadership of President Roh (Moo-hyun), Foreign Minister Ban and other members of the Korean government have shown," the secretary said, "as well as the personal sacrifices made by Korea's soldiers and civilians who are serving there."