USFK needs to cut costs, says key U.S. senator

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USFK needs to cut costs, says key U.S. senator

The chairman of a powerful committee in the U.S. Senate said Tuesday reductions in spending on U.S. forces in Korea is needed.

“I would hope that there could be some progress in terms of North Korea that would allow us to reduce our troops, the number of our troops in Korea,” Senator Carl Levin, the Michigan Democrat who chairs the powerful Senate Armed Services Committee, told reporters on Tuesday at a news conference.

“Particularly, we cannot afford to be spending ? I believe it was a figure like $10,000 a month for family housing that was planned in order to have families come ? more families come over and be with our troops in Korea,” he said. “We cannot afford that.”

Since U.S President Barack Obama announced plans for a “leaner” military early this year, speculation has been high in Korea that a smaller Pentagon budget will curtail the 28,500 U.S. troops in the country.

Under the Obama administration’s defense budget cut plans this year, Secretary of Defense Leon E. Panetta said the size of the Army will be trimmed from 570,000 soldiers to around 490,000.

Concerns have been mounting in Korea of a cut in the current U.S. troops stationed here. Some analysts have speculated that Washington could ask for an increase in Korea’s spending on the U.S. forces, as it did in Japan.

Panetta told reporters in March that the U.S. Department of Defense would maintain its commitment to Korea, saying: “We maintain those forces not only for the help and protection of South Korea but also as a force to indicate that the United States is going to always maintain a military presence in the Pacific.”
When it comes to South Korea developing longer-range missiles, Levin said that would be acceptable if Korea develops them in a peaceful way.

“If they want to do it in a nonthreatening way, totally defensive way at its own expense, I don’t have any problem,” he said.

An agreement between Seoul and Washington limits South Korean ballistic missiles to 300 kilometers (186 miles) in range and to 500 kilograms (1,102 pounds) in payload.

Seoul wants to extend its missiles’ range to cover the entire Korean Peninsula to prevent an attack from Pyongyang.

By Kim Hee-jin [heejin@joongang.co.kr]

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