Hubbard says U.S.-Korea ties remain strong
Against the background of an announced pullout of as many as a third of all U.S. troops on the peninsula, U.S. Ambassador Thomas Hubbard in a lecture to law students at Seoul National University reaffirmed yesterday the U.S. and Korean alliance.
But at the same time, Mr. Hubbard said: “South Korea has the capacity to take a much greater lead, play a much larger role in your defense against North Korea than it was able to in years past.”
Mr. Hubbard said U.S. troops would be leaving Seoul for bases south of the Han River to reduce the nuisance to Koreans.
Though the relationship is evolving, Mr. Hubbard emphasized that the United States and South Korea would remain closely linked. “Contrary to what you may read in the newspapers, the two governments are trying to build our relationship based on our shared values and our shared interests,” he said. “We’re working to create a new kind of relationship, one that will be more sustainable.”
Addressing the realignment of U.S. forces in South Korea under the U.S. Global Defense Posture Review, Mr. Hubbard said the two governments are trying “to reshape our military ties so that our relations reflect the changes that we see in the modern world.”
Mr. Hubbard said, “We have a lot of values to add such as air power, naval power, mobility, surveillance power.”
He took the view that the realignment of the U.S. military and the possible reduction in the number of troops could be regarded as “a major contribution” to the defense of South Korea.
He added, “Any changes that we will make in our military relationship will be made based on close consultations,” and “nothing that we will do to alter the shape of our forces here will diminish our ability to work with you to deter any North Korean aggression.”
Mr. Hubbard said that the two countries have a strong common interest in the peninsula to make it nuclear free and free of the threat of the weapons as well as any other weapons of mass destruction.
On the subject of the possible deployment of Korean troops to Iraq, Mr. Hubbard said, “South Korea will make a very important contribution in supporting Iraqi sovereignty. We are grateful for that.”
The lecture was attended by about 50 students and faculty. Before the speech, a few students staged protests against the U.S. abuse of Iraqi prisoners.
by Choi Jie-ho