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U.S. Troop Strength in Korea Can Be Cut, Pace Says

By Gerry J. Gilmore
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Oct. 10, 2003 – U.S. troop strength in South Korea can be reduced because of technological advances in military art and lessons learned from combat in Afghanistan and Iraq, the nation's No. 2 military officer said here today.

"I personally believe that the numbers of U.S. troops in Korea can, in fact, be reduced, at the same time that the U.S. capabilities to defend Korea are increased," Marine Gen. Peter Pace, vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff told attendees at the Council on U.S.-Korean Security Studies here.

DoD is assessing its global force posture, or "footprint," Pace explained, as part of Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld's mandate to transform the U.S. military into a leaner, meaner, and more agile fighting force for the 21st century.

Consequently, "we may want to rearrange the (U.S. military) footprint on the Korean peninsula," Pace said at the Heritage Foundation-sponsored event, "to be able to move more quickly and to be able to thwart" potential threats, such as an invasion from North Korea.

Today, about 37,000 American troops are stationed in South Korea, a force posture that "has served us very well" for some years now, the four-star general said.

However, Pace noted that harnessing technology and employing lessons learned in Afghanistan and Iraq provide "the opportunity to do a better, more efficient, more effective defense of Korea with our Korean counterparts in a way that will benefit both of our countries."

The general emphasized that any reduction of American troop strength on the Korean peninsula would not be the result of unilateral action of the United States, and could occur only after the issue is worked between the United States and South Korea.

Military technology has made tremendous strides since World War II, Pace pointed out, when inaccurate, so-called "dumb" bombs were used against the Axis powers. In contrast, he cited the proven lethality and accuracy of today's precision munitions used against enemy troops in Afghanistan and Iraq.

Airplanes could drop "3,000 bombs to hit one target in World War II," Pace explained, and "now one airplane can drop 10 bombs and hit 10 targets."

Accordingly, Rumsfeld's transformational doctrine maintains that most of today's U.S. force structure is based on a World War II model, when large land, air, and naval forces were expected to engage in huge battles of attrition with a similarly armed enemy.

With the demise of the Soviet Union in 1991, such a "peer" competitor no longer exists, the defense secretary has often pointed out. However, the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks on the United States underlined the fact that new, deadly threats to U.S. national security remain.

Then-U.S. Central Command Gen. Tommy Franks, Pace noted, took today's new military capabilities into account when he formulated the battle plan for ousting Saddam Hussein's regime from Iraq.

Consequently, Pace continued, Franks' war plan for Iraq was "based on a much smaller force that got the job done very quickly," compared to the much larger, World War II-sized force deployed to oust Saddam from Kuwait more than a decade ago.

And smaller, technologically enhanced ground forces will likely provide the template for tomorrow's military, he maintained.

Pace also noted that about 700 South Korean military are serving alongside U.S. and other allied forces in Iraq. He welcomed the possibility that more South Korean troops may be on the way.

The general praised the capabilities of South Korea's military, noting he was "very proud to stand next to them on the battlefield."

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