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No U.S. Troop Reductions Planned in Korea

By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, June 19, 2000 – The United States is encouraged by the accord signed by the presidents of South and North Korea, but officials say no U.S. troop reductions in South Korea are contemplated.

About 37,000 U.S. troops are in South Korea, mostly with the U.S. Army. Pentagon spokesman Ken Bacon said that even if reunification occurs, South Korean President Kim Dae Jung would like to see U.S. troops remain in his country. Kim considers U.S. troop presence a regional stabilizing force, Bacon said during a June 15 Pentagon press conference.

He said there is a lot of reason for exuberance over the historic summit, but that the exuberance ought to be tempered. "There's been one summit; it's turned out well," he said. "There is talk of another summit with President Kim Jong Il going to Seoul later this summer. And I think we just have to wait to see how events unfold."

North Korea continues to have a large well-armed force deployed close to the demilitarized zone, Bacon said. It continues to spend a disproportionate share of its gross national product on the military at a time when people are starving.

"We hope that will change," Bacon said. "It's 50 years this summer since the Korean War began. It is time to have a peace settlement. It's time to have reconciliation. I think both presidents Kim see that, and they are apparently trying to move in that direction.

"But how ... 50 years of hostility and distrust and suspicion can be unfolded, and how quickly, remain to be seen. We hope very quickly, but I think that time will have to tell."

The next step is for Kim Jong Il to visit Seoul later this year.

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