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U.S. to Move Military Forces From Seoul, DMZ

By Kathleen T. Rhem
American Forces Press Service

SEOUL, South Korea, Nov. 17, 2003 – The United States and South Korea have agreed in principle to move most American forces out of the capital city of Seoul and south from the demilitarized zone along the border with North Korea.

Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld is in the country's capital for the annual Security Consultative Meeting between defense officials from the two countries.

"As the U.S. and Korea look at the 21st century challenges and the new security environment we're in, we're working to transform our combined military posture to defend Korea and to strengthen security and prospects for peace on this peninsula," Rumsfeld said during a press conference today at the Korean Ministry of National Defense.

The secretary appeared with the Korean national defense minister, Cho Yung Kil, after the two held talks on a number of issues. Before the meeting of cabinet officials, Joint Chiefs Chairman Air Force Gen. Richard Myers met with his Korean counterpart.

This year's iteration of the annual talks was significant because last month was the 50th anniversary of the security agreement between the United States and South Korea, and because the United States is gearing up for a major reconsolidation of its forces on the peninsula.

"We may have had one of the most substantive SCM meetings ever," Rumsfeld said.

The U.S. and Korean governments have agreed to move the majority of the 7,000 troop-strong American military presence out of the Seoul area onto bases farther south.

Army Gen. Leon LaPorte, commander of U.S. forces in Korea, said a small American presence is likely to remain in Seoul, but that the numbers have not been agreed to.

Officials have also agreed to relocate American forces in the north of the country primarily the Army's 2nd Infantry Division at Camp Casey in two phases. First, they will be consolidated into a smaller footprint. Then they will be moved to the southern part of the country.

Eventually, officials explained, U.S. forces in Korea will be centered on two main "hubs" in the south.

Rumsfeld is in Korea on the last leg of a six-day trip that has included Guam and Japan. He met with South Korean President Roh Moo Hyun, attended the consultative meeting and a ceremony at Korea's National War Museum, and laid a wreath at the National Cemetery. He will visit American service members at Camp Casey, Camp Humphreys, and Osan Air Base Nov. 18 before returning to the United States.

In a joint communiqu issued after the consultative meeting, the secretary thanked South Korea for its commitment to send additional military forces to Iraq. The country has already sent medical and engineering units to Iraq and Afghanistan. Local media put the number of added troops at 3,000 and said they'd be used in a humanitarian capacity.

Rumsfeld also reiterated a U.S. commitment to provide the ROK military with $11 billion to enhance its capabilities. The secretary also called on North Korea to "completely, verifiably and irreversibly dismantle its nuclear weapons programs and to cease the testing, development, deployment and export of weapons of mass destruction, missiles and related technologies."

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