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Rumsfeld Reassures South Koreans on Reorganization Efforts

By Kathleen T. Rhem
American Forces Press Service

SEOUL, South Korea, Nov. 18, 2003 – Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld reassured South Korean leaders that any changes in the U.S. posture in the country will do nothing to detract from the United States' commitment to defend Korea.

"Nothing we do will diminish our commitment to Korea's security or our ability to fulfill our obligations under the mutual defense treaty," Rumsfeld said during a joint press conference here with Korean Minister of National Defense Cho Yung Kil Nov. 17. The two had met earlier for the annual Security Consultative Meeting.

U.S. and Korean officials have agreed to move all American forces in Korea to two major bases to be established in the southern part of the country. Rumsfeld said the changes "will result in increased U.S. capabilities in the region."

"The technologies that we have today that were demonstrated during the Iraq war allow us to fight a different war than was fought here in the early '50s," said Gen. Leon LaPorte, commander of U.S. and combined forces in Korea. "We're working at shaping and aligning our force to allow us to take advantage of those technologies."

LaPorte met with reporters traveling with Rumsfeld to explain the issues in more detail. He said 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.

He said the consolidation is a matter of enhancing capabilities, not lessening U.S. commitment to defend South 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.

U.S. officials said the Korean government understood the need for changes and agreed with the concept. A senior defense official who was present at the Nov. 17 meeting between Rumsfeld and Korean President Roh Moo Hyun said exchanges between the two men were extremely cordial and that Roh was in complete understanding of the U.S. proposals.

"The Republic of Korea are willing participants in it," LaPorte said. "They realize the tremendous benefits of doing what we're suggesting be done."

Rumsfeld also assured the Koreans the United States would make no final decisions on details or timing of the changes in force structure without "the closest consultation with our key allies."

The secretary was in Seoul on the last stop of a six-day trip to Guam and Tokyo and Okinawa, Japan. Today he visited U.S. troops at Camp Casey and Osan Air Base, before departing for Washington.

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