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U.S. Force Review Won't Degrade Deterrence in South Korea

By Gerry J. Gilmore
American Forces Press Service

TOKYO, June 2, 2003 – Any realignment of American military forces in South Korea would enhance, rather than degrade, that country's ability to deter potential threats such as those posed by North Korea, U.S. Deputy Defense Secretary Paul D. Wolfowitz said June 2 in Seoul.

Wolfowitz had given a keynote luncheon speech to a group of South Korean business leaders before flying to Tokyo.

Japan is the last leg of the deputy defense secretary's trip to address East Asian security matters after stops in Singapore and South Korea.

Because of the changed nature of today's threats and the dramatic new capabilities of U.S. forces as exhibited in Afghanistan and Iraq, Wolfowitz pointed out it's time to evaluate how U.S. forces are postured around the world and the United States and how to achieve more effectiveness while maintaining deterrence capability.

Consequently, Wolfowitz said to business leaders at the luncheon, the alignment of U.S. forces in South Korea likely needs to be adjusted.

Yet, the deputy defense secretary emphasized, "We're aware that everything we do should enhance, not diminish, the credibility of our deterrent."

Wolfowitz related several "drivers" for the U.S. military posture review:

  • New capability for long-range, high-precision targeting systems that greatly increases warfighting prowess.
  • Improved military organization achieved through improved intelligence collecting and information management systems.
  • The integration of joint operations for improved military effectiveness.
  • Appreciation of the military benefits of speed during operations the ability to move great distances quickly and to use temporary basing, as required.

So far, U.S. and South Korean have met twice in discussing possible realignment of American troops stationed in Korea, Wolfowitz explained, noting officials will meet as often as necessary to complete the process.

Wolfowitz said he hopes U.S. and South Korean officials can reach mutual concurrence on necessary changes no later than by the end of the year, so as to begin implementing agreed changes next year.

While change "is often difficult," the deputy defense secretary noted, he pointed out that change "is also positive."

"We are determined that the changes we make will enhance the quality of our alliance with the Republic of Korea, will strengthen deterrence on the Korean Peninsula and will reinforce stability in northeast Asia, more generally," Wolfowitz asserted.

The U.S.-South Korean alliance indeed "is a remarkable and unqualified success," Wolfowitz declared. That partnership "has stood its ground and defended this nation for half a century," he continued, "as Korea emerged from a massively destructive war and went on to prosper, both economically and politically."

South Korea today has the world's twelfth largest economy, Wolfowitz pointed out, "with a thriving democracy that's the envy of the world."

And, Wolfowitz said he was "extremely impressed" with the quality and confidence of South Korea's armed forces.

Korean troops, he added, have served elsewhere in the world too "to ensure peace, when and where needed." Wolfowitz cited Korean armed forces' peacekeeping contributions in East Timor and Afghanistan.

Also, Wolfowitz pointed out, "As we sit here this afternoon, Korean troops have just arrived in Iraq and are working to help build a new and free Iraq."

This action "further enhances Korea's international prestige and standing," he pointed out, noting South Koreans "should be justly proud that your armed forces have risen to the challenge."

Wolfowitz remarked to the business leaders that he'd just returned from "an excellent meeting" with South Korean President Roh Moo Hyun, whom the U.S. deputy defense secretary characterized as "an impressive man."

The deputy defense secretary said he told Roh about his June 1 visit with U.S. and South Korean troops at Camp Greaves, about one mile from the demilitarized zone.

Wolfowitz noted to Roh that these "strong, smart, dedicated and disciplined" U.S. troops came to Korea "to ensure the peace."

Soo-Young Lee, vice chairman of the Korean Chamber of Commerce and Industry that hosted the luncheon, thanked Wolfowitz for coming to South Korea to offer American support in the wake of recent reports that North Korea was developing nuclear weapons in violation of previous agreements.

The United States, Lee observed, is South Korea's largest trading partner and investor, and he noted his thanks for the efforts of U.S. Forces, Korea, in continuing to provide military deterrence against potential North Korean aggression.

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Click photo for screen-resolution imageU.S. Deputy Defense Secretary Paul D. Wolfowitz, left, and Soo-Young Lee, the vice chairman of the Korean Chamber of Commerce and Industry, a group of South Korean business leaders, converse in a downtown Seoul hotel June 2 before the deputy defense secretary's keynote speech at the KCCI-hosted luncheon. Photo by Gerry J. Gilmore  
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