U.S. Realigning, Redeploying Military Forces in South Korea
By Kathleen T. Rhem
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Sept. 2, 2004 Within the next several years, one-third fewer American soldiers will be stationed in the Republic of Korea. But, senior officials say, even that reduced number of soldiers will be better able to meet U.S. commitments to the nation's Korean allies.
"In the process of transforming ourselves, we're dramatically increasing our own capabilities on the peninsula and in the region. And at the same time, the Republic of Korea is evolving itself and transforming itself," Deputy Undersecretary of Defense for Asian and Pacific Affairs Richard Lawless said today. "The ability of both forces to increase their capabilities and transform their force structure in a complimentary way allows us to have a net gain in our deterrent capability as we reorganize ourselves and reorient ourselves on the peninsula."
In an interview with American Forces Press Service and the Pentagon Channel, Lawless outlined three areas of significant change concerning U.S. force posture in South Korea in the near future:
- Repositioning the 2nd Infantry Division from its current position near the Demilitarized Zone between North and South Korea. Lawless said moving the division south actually will increase its deterrent capability.
- Relocating the Yongsan Garrison out of Seoul. "We are giving back, at the request of the Republic of Korea, very valuable land at the center of their capital city," Lawless said. "This is something that is very important to the citizens of that city and the citizens of the Republic of Korea."
- Transforming U.S. military forces in South Korea and redeploying some forces to facilitate transformation. This "will result in improved deterrent capability on the peninsula that further serves that interest of the alliance," Lawless said.
Moving and consolidating 2nd Infantry Division forces and the troops currently in Seoul will result in the United States giving back 75 percent of the land granted for U.S. military use in South Korea -- or roughly 35,000 acres of "very valuable property," Lawless said.
"This is something that we think will benefit the alliance, and it indicates the spirit with which we're attempting to develop and protect this alliance," he said.
As part of the U.S. military's overall transformation, officials have estimated DoD will spend some $11 billion in enhancing more than 100 specific military capabilities on the Korean Peninsula or in the immediate region "that could come to the aid of Korea and our commitments there," Lawless explained.
These upgrades are spurring the South Korean government to improve their own armed forces. "The net result of this is a much stronger, much improved alliance over a very short period of time," Lawless said.
The realignment and transformation also entails moving some 12,500 troops out of South Korea over an unspecified period of time. Officials have announced 5,000 forces will leave Korea by the end of 2004.
Part of that force has already departed the peninsula -- though not to the United States. The 2nd Brigade Combat Team of the 2nd Infantry Division deployed from Korea to Iraq earlier this summer. Officials have announced that unit will not return to Korea, but no U.S. destination for the unit has been agreed upon.
At the end of this period of realignment, U.S. and South Korean forces on the peninsula will be better able to defend against any potential threats. Lawless said he believes the final details will be worked out between both sides in consultations over the next few weeks.
"I think we're very confident that when we do conclude a final agreement on the balance of the troops that will be redeployed that both sides will be satisfied that the combined deterrent capability of the remaining forces on the peninsula will be very satisfactory to the mission statement," he said.