USFK redeployment talks will conclude this year

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USFK redeployment talks will conclude this year

Korea and the United States plan to conclude bilateral talks this year on the method and procedures for possible overseas redeployment of American troops stationed here, sources in Korea said yesterday.

An informed source, speaking on condition of anonymity, said the sides were seeking to conclude negotiations before the annual defense ministerial talks, known as the Security Consultative Meeting, slated for October.

“Talks are being held between the two sides to conclude the details and procedures of strategic flexibility of the U.S. Forces Korea,” the source said.

Seoul had opposed the flexibility of U.S. troops as it earlier believed the move could lead, at least temporarily, to a reduction of American forces stationed here. The United States currently maintains some 28,500 service members as part of joint efforts to deter hostility from communist North Korea under the Korea-U.S. alliance.

USFK said in a statement earlier this month that redeployment of its troops, even if necessary, would only be possible in the late 2010s, and then after close consultations with the Korean government.

Other sources close to the ongoing negotiations said the strategic flexibility of U.S. troops will not affect the number of soldiers stationed here.

“The countries are holding the talks under a condition that the number of U.S. forces here will be maintained at 28,500 at all times,” another source in Seoul said, adding that the United States hopes to exercise troop flexibility from Korea beginning in 2016.

Washington was earlier said to want strategic flexibility of its forces from 2015, when the relocation of its frontline troops to south Seoul is to be completed.

The relocation of the troops, however, will likely be put off by one year due to a delay in the construction of an expanded U.S. base in Pyeongtaek, Gyeonggi, 70 kilometers (43.4 miles) south of Seoul, the sources said.

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