[EDITORIALS]Bases Transfer May Be Good NewsSouth Korea and the United States have announced that they have made considerable progress in talks to reduce the number of American military sites, through integration and closures, around the nation. The two sides are expected to hammer out the final details at a security consultative meeting in November. We hope that the two sides can reach an agreement that balances national defense and national development. We hope in particular that the two sides will accommodate local needs and sensitivities that have often flared up as anti-American sentiment.
The American military sites, since their establishment during the Korean War, have only rarely been moved or changed in size. Despite their value in our defense, they did collide with local interests as the country's cities expanded. Some sites have been the subject of open clashes.
The American military has belatedly acknowledged some of the inconveniences. Last year, they proposed the return of 132 million square meters of the total 244 million square meters of land over the next 10 years. In return, the American forces have asked for 2.5 million square meters of new land. The land to be returned includes 15 military sites in the heart of Seoul and the surrounding areas of Uijeongbu and Dongducheon.
We do not yet have specific details, but we stress that the negotiations need not be confrontational. The two sides should take a thorough look at local needs and sentiments and city development and environmental plans. We suggest that the negotiators invite local representatives to join them to ensure a better understanding of plans that could cause flare-ups.
The American side should not try to transfer the financial burden of maintaining the American forces in South Korea in return for cutting back its presence. There may be no relation to this issue, but we consider it regrettable that a U.S. team led by the State Department's assistant secretary for political and military affairs was recently in town and asked the Korean government to increase its share of the maintenance cost for American forces in Korea.