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At U.S. request, troop cut plan was kept secret

May 19,2004
A former Blue House aide said yesterday that the South Korea government was told last fall of the U.S. intention to pull significant numbers of troops from the Korean Peninsula, but it kept the issue quiet at the request of Pentagon officials.
The former Blue House senior secretary for political affairs, Yoo Ihn-tae, said yesterday, “In September 2003, the United States first told South Korea through defense channels that a significant troop withdrawal was inevitable as part of the Global Defense Posture Review.” The review refers to the Pentagon’s policy under the Bush administration of realigning troops around the world by upgrading defense technology and shifting the numbers of troops stationed overseas, as formally announced by President George W. Bush in November last year.
According to Mr. Yoo, when Seoul brought up the issue of making the withdrawal plan public, the United States requested that announcements be delayed. “Our government believed it was right to make [it] public, but for some reason, the U.S. refused, and follow up discussions were postponed.”
On Tuesday, Paul Wolfowitz, the U.S. deputy defense secretary, said, “We have been discussing for some time with our Asian colleagues and with Congress the whole restructuring of the U.S. global footprint. We have already made some adjustments to our posture in Korea.” Regarding reinforcement plans, he added, “It was concluded over a year ago that it was long overdue to reduce the strain on our army that comes from having these continuous, one-year, unaccompanied tours in Korea.”
Mr. Wolfowitz also cited a need to change the array of U.S. forces in Korea, as their “tripwire” role in the Demilitarized Zone was now “useless.”
The United States and South Korea originally planned to discuss withdrawal plans after the U.S. elections in November, but because of the Iraq war and subsequent pullout of some U.S. forces here, talks are expected in late fall, or earlier.
President Roh Moo-hyun is expected to hold a meeting on foreign affairs and security today to discuss repercussions and countermeasures following the pullout of U.S. forces this summer. About 3,600 troops of the 2d Infantry division will be sent to Iraq.
National Assembly defense committee members from ruling and opposition parties are voicing concern over the withdrawal. Grand National Party lawmaker Lee Kyung-jae fretted that the move was “leading to the parting of the U.S-Korea blood alliance.” Our Open Party’s chairman Shin Ki-nam said, “Our alliance stands firm. The transfer of troops has nothing to do with our delay in Korean troops’ dispatch to Iraq.”


by Choi Hoon, Choi Jie-ho


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