U.S. Department of Defense Talks of
Shifting Troops in Korea


By Jim Garamone, AFPS

WASHINGTON, March 7, 2003 – The United States will work with its Korean allies to "rebalance" U.S. forces in the country, Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld said March 6.

Rumsfeld was talking about a worldwide reconfiguring of U.S. forces during a Pentagon town hall meeting.

He opined on the situation in Korea. "We still have a lot of forces in Korea arranged very far forward, where it’s intrusive in their lives, and where they really aren’t very flexible or usable for other things," he said.

South Korea has a gross domestic product between 25 and 35 times that of North Korea, the secretary said. "(South Korea) has all the capability in the world of providing the kind of up-front deterrent that is needed," he said.

The United States could even remove forces from the Korean Peninsula because control of the air and sea gives the United States unprecedented mobility, he said. A quick, light military could move back into the area at a moment’s notice. New South Korean President Roh Muh-hyun ran on a platform to rebalance the alliance, and DoD is eager to do so, according to a senior defense official.

But that does not mean America would desert the alliance. "The United States remains committed to the defense of the Republic of Korea and to the stability of the Korean Peninsula and Northeast Asia," said Navy Lt. Cmdr. Jeff Davis, a DoD spokesman. He noted the alliance has kept the peace in Korea for 50 years and will continue to do so in the future.

Rumsfeld said the United States is working with its Korean ally to update and strengthen the U.S.-ROK alliance in the 21st century. With that in mind, Richard Lawless, deputy assistant secretary of defense for Asian and Pacific affairs, met with Deputy Minister of Defense Lt. Gen. Cha Young Koo in Seoul and discussed the future.

The two allies talked about repositioning U.S. troops in South Korea, moving the headquarters for U.S. Forces Korea out of Seoul and changing the mission focus of U.S. troops based on the peninsula.

"I suspect that what we’ll do is we’ll end up making some adjustments there," Rumsfeld said during the town hall session. "Whether the forces would come home or whether they’d move farther south on the peninsula, or whether they would move to some neighboring area are the kinds of things that are being sorted out."

The first formal meeting of the Future of the Alliance Policy Initiative is set in April, DoD officials said.