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Rumsfeld: S. Korea Troop Moves Won't Degrade Deterrence

By Gerry J. Gilmore
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Aug. 18, 2004 – Any U.S. troop realignments in South Korea won't degrade the deterrence capability against possible aggression by North Korea, DoD's senior civilian told a noted journalist Aug. 17.

The United States in consultation with its allies has worked the past three years in developing plans to realign its global military presence in Europe and Asia, U.S. Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld told PBS television news host Jim Lehrer.

Rumsfeld also addressed critics of the decision to move U.S. troops stationed in South Korea away from the demilitarized zone and out of the capital city of Seoul to locations further south. "We obviously wouldn't have done it if there were any risk of a weakening in the deterrent up there," he said.

The long-range goal, the secretary noted, is to "transfer over time, carefully in a measured way, responsibilities to the South Korean military."

Rumsfeld suggested the South Koreans are almost ready to provide the majority of their national security, noting they "have an enormous military" and a robust economy.

North Korean forces invaded South Korea on June 25, 1950. The U.S. and the United Nations sent troops to assist the South Koreans. Later, China came into the conflict on the side of the North Koreans, who were also receiving support from the Soviet Union. The end of the 1950-53 Korean War left the peninsula with a shaky truce between the communist north and democratic south.

It's been 50 years since the end of the war, Rumsfeld observed, noting 21st century military technology enables the U.S. military to do more to support South Korea with fewer troops.

Consequently, he reiterated, "there won't be any weakening of the deterrent" in South Korea, "because I happen to know for a fact that the capability of the United States will be in fact as strong or stronger" after the troop moves.

Rumsfeld said China, Russia, Japan, and South Korea -- as well as the United States -- are involved in talks with North Korea as part of efforts to persuade it to jettison its suspected nuclear weapons program.

North Korea could be bluffing about having nukes, Rumsfeld noted. But he pointed out that the North Korean government has been "clearly announcing that they are interested in having nuclear weapons and may have nuclear weapons."

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