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U.S. Set to Leave 25,000 Troops in Korea

By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Aug. 8, 2006 – U.S. troop levels in South Korea will not drop beyond previously agreed upon levels, a senior defense official speaking on background said here yesterday.

U.S. troop levels in South Korea will go from a previous 37,500 to around 25,000 by the end of 2007, but this won’t lessen the U.S. commitment to defending the country, the official said. Modern technology allows for more defense capability with fewer troops.

The United States and Republic of Korea also have agreed to discuss changes to command relationships and the option of Korean wartime operational control of their forces, the official said.

Under a proposed plan, Korea, which maintains control of its military during times of armistice, also would keep control of its military in times of war. Current agreements call for both the United States and Korea to cede control of military forces on the peninsula to Combined Forces Command Korea in the event of hostilities. U.S. Army Gen. B.B. Bell is the commander of that force.

Even if such an agreement changes command arrangements, the official said, U.S. troops will remain under U.S. control.

Changes to the U.S. and Korean military footprint in South Korea have added to capabilities to deter aggression and maintain peace on the peninsula, the official said.

Previous decisions that remain to be accomplished include moving U.S. and international military headquarters out of Seoul by 2008. Repositioning U.S. forces from north of the Han River to two hubs south of Seoul will occur sometime in 2007 or 2008, the official said.

Changes are being made to the existing defense structure because the Republic of Korea is now the 10th largest economy in the world and fields a much more effective military force than in the past. Korea should be responsible for its own security, the official said. He stressed that both countries will agree on any changes made.

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