중앙데일리

U.S. general suggested halting cut in troops

Apr 23,2008
WASHINGTON ­— The idea not to cut the number of U.S. troops on the Korean Peninsula actually came from Gen. Burwell Bell, commander of U.S. Forces Korea, according to a senior Korean government official.
According to an agreement signed by Korea’s previous administration, the United States had been scheduled to cut its military presence to 25,000 by the end of this year from 37,000 in 2004.
However, U.S. President George W. Bush announced that the number of troops would not be reduced any further during the Korea-U.S. presidential summit in Camp David, Maryland, this week.
Bush also announced that Washington would upgrade Korea’s status in the foreign military sales plan, giving Seoul the same level of access to U.S. weapons and military technology as other allies such as Japan. Bell also strongly supported that plan, the source said.
“Gen. Bell was the first one who addressed the governments in both countries, saying it was essential not to reduce the number of U.S. troops in Korea,” said the source, who declined to be named.
He said keeping the current troop levels would enhance the Korea-U.S. alliance and maintain the military’s abilities in case of a possible war with North Korea.
He also said Korea’s government discussed the troop reduction plan several times before Lee’s state visit to Washington.
“President Bush made the announcement because he figured that Bell’s suggestion, also addressed by U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates, made sense,” the source said.
According to the previous plan, the U.S. military would withdraw its F-16 air fighter squadron and Apache helicopter squadron when it completed the cuts.


By Lee Sang-il JoongAng Ilbo [hawon@joongang.co.kr]


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