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Pentagon: 25,000 U.S. troops in South Korea in 2008

ARLINGTON, Va. — In an effort to “correct some misperceptions that have been out there in the media,” a senior Defense official restated that the United States plans on having about 25,000 U.S. troops in South Korea by 2008.

In 2004, the United States and South Korea agreed to reduce U.S. troop strength from 37,500 to 25,000 over four years, beginning with 3,600 troops with the 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 2nd Infantry Division, which deployed to Iraq that year and then went to Fort Carson, Colo.

Media outlets had reported that U.S. troop strength on the Korean peninsula could dip as low as 20,000, but the official told reporters Monday that the United States does not plan for a “significant reduction” in its forces beyond the 25,000 mark.

“It’s possible that we will have an additional reduction. It will not be a substantial reduction. And it will not be in categories of combat capability,” the official said.

The official declined to say what would constitute a substantial reduction.

“I would say that there [are] no plans to relocate any significant combat capability out of the Republic of Korea,” the official said.

Over the next few months, officials will work out the details of what U.S. troop strength in South Korea will ultimately be.

There are currently about 29,000 U.S. troops in South Korea, according to the Defense Department.

Also Monday, the official said that by October, both the United States and South Korea hope to have a plan under which each country would have control over its own forces in wartime.

U.S. Army Gen. B.B. Bell, commander U.S. Forces Korea, currently has authority over the much larger South Korean army in case of war, but Korean officials have said they want to control their own forces.

“We think this is a reasonable request. We think it’s a request whose time has come,” the official said.

South Korea’s army has about 500,000 active-duty troops.

Under the plan being worked out, U.S. troops would play a “supporting role” to Korean troops.

South Korean officials hope to be able to have wartime control over their forces by 2012, but the United States believes that South Korean can assume control in 2009, the official said.


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