U.S. Plan to Shift Korea Forces Still a 'Go'
By Gerry J. Gilmore
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, April 1, 2004 The U.S. military's top officer in South Korea says plans are in motion to move 2nd Infantry Division troops away from the north- south border region and most other forces out of the capital city of Seoul.
American troops have been deployed at the Demilitarized Zone and in several encampments near the northern border to deter potential aggression from the North since the armistice that ended the 1950-53 Korean War. A sizable U.S. military presence also has been maintained in Seoul to support United Nations Command and U.S. Forces Korea headquarters.
That's all changing, Army Gen. Leon J. LaPorte told the House Armed Services Committee March 31 in prepared testimony. Most American troops will be moved out of Seoul by the end of 2007, the general reported, and all of the U.S. 2nd Infantry Division that's currently patrolling the region north of Seoul will be moved south of Seoul by 2008.
Existing military facilities at Osan Air Base and Camp Humphreys, both located south of Seoul, LaPorte noted, are being expanded and upgraded to accept the redeployed forces.
The movement of troops will "transform the United States basing posture from its inefficient post-Korean War posture to a stable, less intrusive footprint," LaPorte explained, while focusing "construction investments into enduring facilities within the two hubs south of the Han River." The river runs through Seoul.
About 37,000 U.S. forces now serve in South Korea, LaPorte said. A recent U.S.- South Korea agreement, he added, calls for the transfer of certain U.S. military missions to the Republic of Korea over the next three years.
However, "these changes will not decrease readiness or deterrence" efforts on the Korean peninsula, LaPorte vowed, noting that South Korea's modern military has 680,000 active duty troops, with a reserve force of 3 million.
Factors enabling the realignment of U.S. forces in Korea include South Korea's improved military force posture and U.S. forces' "state-of-the-art operational capabilities," LaPorte explained.
Today, he noted, the U.S.-South Korean alliance presents "a potent, integrated team with the military capabilities to defeat any provocation on the Korean peninsula, deterring escalation that could destabilize the region."