U.S. forces may be stationed on Baengnyeong

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U.S. forces may be stationed on Baengnyeong

The South Korean military may send U.S. forces residing in South Korea to Baengnyeong Island, one of the five western border islands closest to North Korea. The islands include Yeonpyeong Island which was shelled by North Korea last November.

A South Korean military official related to the matter told the JoongAng Ilbo yesterday that the decision, if made, would be to “heighten restraint against North Korea.”

According to the same source, the Blue House considered sending combat troops from the U.S. forces to Baengnyeong and Yeonpyeong islands after last November’s shelling. However, the plan had fallen through due to opposition from the U.S. military. As a result, the South Korean military is now pushing for U.S. communication troops to be sent to Baengnyeong Island instead, although the size or time of the deployment has not yet been decided, the source said.

The issue had been discussed from May 11-13 on Baengnyeong Island when U.S. and South Korean marines were holding joint strategic staff talks, but the two parties failed to reach a consensus. National Defense Minister Kim Kwan-jin was updated on the details of the plan’s progress last week, the source said.

If the plan falls through and U.S. troops are not sent, the two militaries are likely to engage in regular joint firing drills on Baengnyeong and Yeonpyeong islands.

The United States has been actively supporting South Korean military training and drills since the attack by the North last year, especially near the maritime border between the two Koreas.

Last month, U.S. Marine officials residing in Okinawa, Japan, came to South Korea to do reconnaissance of Baengnyeong Island, a rare occurrence. U.S. troops also participated in a firing drill with the South Korean Marines on May 3.

“We mean to send a message to the North to prevent an attack like the shelling on Yeonpyeong Island,” said the South Korean military official. “We will cooperate fully to block North Korea from engaging in warfare.”

Meanwhile, South Korea’s military is intent on continuing large scale drills as the South Korean Navy and Marines started joint landing operations from yesterday on the shores of southeastern South Korea near Pohang. The drills will go on until May 22.


By Jeong Yong-soo [christine.kim@joongang.co.kr]


한글 관련 기사 [중앙일보]

군 “주한미군 백령도 주둔 추진”

전투부대 아닌 연락단 파견
미 국방부 최종 결정 남아

우리 군 당국이 주한미군 연락단의 백령도 주둔을 추진 중인 것으로 16일 확인됐다. 군 고위 관계자는 이날 “서북 해역의 긴장이 높아진 상황에서 다양한 대북 억제력 강화 방안을 모색하고 있다”며 “미군을 백령도에 상주시키는 방안을 추진 중”이라고 밝혔다.

한·미는 이에 따라 지난 11~13일 백령도에서 진행된 한·미 해병 참모전술토의(Staff Talk)에서 이 문제를 협의했다. 군 관계자는 “이 회의에서 구체적인 규모나 파견 시기에 대해 결론을 내리지는 못했다”며 “미 국방부가 최종 결심을 하는 데 다소 시간이 걸릴 것 같다”고 설명했다. 정부는 지난해 11월 23일 북한의 연평도 공격 직후 청와대를 중심으로 미군의 백령도 주둔을 추진해 왔다고 한다. 그러나 미군 측이 난색을 표해 전투부대 대신 연락단을 파견하는 쪽으로 방침을 바꿨다고 군 관계자는 전했다.

미국은 휴전선 인근에 배치된 주한미군의 기동성을 높이기 위해 평택으로 부대를 이전하는 상황에서 미군을 백령도에 고정적으로 배치하기 어렵다는 입장을 전해온 것으로 알려졌다. 한·미 양국 간 서북 해역에서의 군사협력이 부쩍 강화되고 있다. 양국 군은 이르면 오는 7월 이 지역에서 연합훈련을 실시할 계획이다.

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