Pacific Command Chief Cautions U.S. Personnel
By Linda D. Kozaryn
American Forces Press Service
BEIJING, July 12, 2000 U.S. personnel in the Republic of Korea need to be wary of anti-American sentiments caused by a number of converging factors, according to the commander of U.S. Pacific Command.
"The excitement of the summit (between North Korean and South Korean leaders) seems to have stirred up the level of and combination of resentment against the American presence which has always been held by some very small part of Korean society," Adm. Dennis Blair told reporters traveling here with Defense Secretary William S. Cohen.
Those recent meetings caused some in the south to call for the withdrawal of U.S. forces, Blair said. South Korean President Dae-jung Kim, however, strongly supports a continued U.S. military presence, reunification or no. Kim said he would like U.S. troops to stay and anticipates that they will.
About 37,000 U.S. service members are stationed in South Korea.
Blair noted that a U.S. officer was recently killed outside a popular shopping area in Seoul by "an unbalanced person," and a "local issue" regarding a target range located near some villages sparked big demonstrations near Osan.
"The Korean officers I have talked to and officials do not see it as a long-term increase in antipathy toward the United States," Blair said. Still, U.S. military officials have "upped the level of concern" among U.S. personnel, he said.
"We haven’t buttoned up the bases or any of that, but we still told people to watch out for each other, to be more careful because there’s more disturbances in the area and some prudent measures are being taken," Blair said.