View Full Version : US to reduce troops in Korea

01 Jun 04,, 05:04
S. Korea, U.S. to Discuss Peninsula Troop Reduction

Monday, May 31, 2004

SEOUL, South Korea The United States and South Korea (search) will start talks next week on slashing the number of U.S. troops based on the divided Korean Peninsula, the Cold War's last flash point, a government official said Monday.

The planned troop reduction is seen as part of Washington's global effort to realign its forces so they can better respond to emergencies worldwide. However, the issue is highly sensitive for its ally, South Korea, due to current tension over communist North Korea's (search) nuclear weapons program.

U.S. and South Korean negotiators will meet in Seoul next Monday, said Kim Sook, head of the South Korean Foreign Ministry's North American bureau.

Kim will lead the South Korean delegation at the two-day talks. The Americans will be led by Assistant Secretary of Defense Richard Lawless (search).

Washington hopes to withdraw one-third of its 37,000 American troops in South Korea the first major troop cut on the divided Korean Peninsula since 1992, according to South Korean officials.

U.S. troops have been stationed here since the 1950-53 Korean War (search) in a bid to deter any possible North Korean attack. The U.S. soldiers, and an additional 650,000 from South Korea, remain on a war footing with the North because the war ended in a truce, not a peace treaty, meaning the two Koreas are technically still at war.

Washington said earlier this month it plans to redeploy 3,600 South Korea-based troops to Iraq in the coming months. No decision has been made on whether those troops will eventually return to South Korea, or on whether they will be part of the overall troop reduction to be discussed next week.

The negotiations will be held along with the ninth round of U.S.-South Korean discussions on reshaping their alliance. The so-called "Future of Alliance" talks focus on shifting the American military's South Korean headquarters out of Seoul, and moving U.S. troops farther from the Demilitarized Zone separating the two Koreas.

Talk of a U.S. troop reduction which comes amid increased anti-American sentiment among younger South Koreans unsettles older South Koreans, who still have painful memories of the North Korean invasion that triggered the war.

"The talks on reducing the U.S. troop level in South Korea should give careful considerations to the security situation on the Korean Peninsula and should never affect the combined South Korea-U.S. defense posture," Kim said.

President Roh Moo-hyun has called for a "cooperative self-defense" policy, which espouses a military alliance with Washington but envisions less dependence on U.S. forces. He said his country, which has the world's 12th largest economy, should play a bigger role in defending itself.