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U.S. Forces Moving Out of Seoul by End of 2008

By Kathleen T. Rhem
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, July 27, 2004 – U.S. and Korean officials have agreed on a plan to move all 8,000 American troops out of Seoul and its suburbs by December 2008. The forces will be relocated to south of the Han River in the Pyongtaek area, roughly 50 miles south of Seoul.

Officials also agreed to move the U.S. Army's 2nd Infantry Division from its existing bases near the Demilitarized Zone to the same area south of Seoul. The timeline for this move has yet to be worked out, DoD officials said.

American and South Korean officials announced the upcoming changes in a joint press conference at the State Department's Foreign Press Center here July 23. The officials briefed the press following the 10th round of the Future of the Alliance talks, held here last week.

"The important message of the day today is that the alliance is well," said Richard Lawless, deputy undersecretary of defense for Asia Pacific affairs. "It's working toward its goals; it's progressing."

The officials gave several reasons for the shift in forces. Consolidating far- flung forces on fewer bases will allow greater efficiency in land use and personnel, Evans Revere, a U.S. State Department expert on Asian affairs, said.

He also noted the move will free up "some very valuable land" for use by Korean municipalities. He said he hopes this will enhance Korean public support for continued U.S. military presence on the peninsula.

Lawless explained that areas surrounding U.S. facilities north of the Han River have become increasingly urbanized and those bases now cause "discomfort" to the local population. "(U.S. bases) encroach upon the daily lives of the Korean people," he said, noting the upcoming move is "very much driven by our desire to become a better partner there."

Officials from both countries have been working together for some time to finalize plans to move 2nd Infantry Division troops south from the DMZ region. During Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld's visit to South Korea in November 2003, officials explained the U.S. government has been investing in enhanced weapons systems and command-and-control systems to allow more efficient deployment of forces in Korea.

"Whatever adjustments we may make will reflect the new technologies that are available, the new capabilities, and they will strengthen our ability to deter, and if necessary, defeat any aggression against allies such as South Korea," Rumsfeld said Nov. 18, 2003, in Seoul.

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