YONGSAN GARRISON, South Korea — U.S. Forces Korea had no comment Wednesday on newspaper accounts reporting that the United States proposed a timetable for moving its forces in South Korea.
USFK spokeswoman Lee Ferguson said discussions on moving U.S. forces continue. The Chosun Ilbo and Korea Times reported Wednesday that the United States proposed moving the 2nd Infantry Division to Osan and Pyongtaek by 2008 and moving facilities from Yongsan Garrison by 2006.
But the United States only expressed its desire to have new facilities built within five years to house the U.S. forces once moved, said Lt. Col. Lee Bung-woo, Defense Ministry spokesman. The United States did not necessarily say it wanted the forces actually moved in five years, he said.
U.S. and South Korean officials met in July in Hawaii at the Asia Pacific Center for Security Studies to discuss relocating U.S. forces.
South Korea’s position is that it will take “every possible measure” to start the first of two phases in moving the 14,000-person division, Lee said.
The two sides agreed in June that 2nd ID camps will be consolidated into two hubs at camps Red Cloud and Casey. In the second phase, troops would move south of the Han River, although no location or timetable has been set.
Lee said the second phase’s timetable hinges on South Korea’s “security environment.” Some South Korean lawmakers have expressed reservations about moving U.S. forces while concerns remain over North Korea’s nuclear program.
Other discussions have focused on transferring some U.S. missions to South Korean forces. Talks are under way to transfer duties at Panmunjom, the truce village straddling the border between North and South Korea.
There, U.S. soldiers patrol in the Demilitarized Zone with soldiers from North and South Korea. The Joint Security Area — which lies within Panmunjom — is guarded by U.S. and South Korean troops under the U.N. Joint Security Battalion. U.S. soldiers account for about 40 percent of the 550-man unit; the rest are South Korean soldiers.
USFK commander Gen. Leon J. LaPorte told South Korean lawmakers June 3 that 6,000 of the 7,000 soldiers stationed at Yongsan Garrison should move to Camp Humphreys but gave no timetable. The plans are in line with Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld’s vision to revamp forces worldwide.
About 1,000 soldiers would remain at Yongsan with the Combined Forces Command, the U.N. Command and USFK commander’s office, LaPorte said.
No public announcement has addressed the sensitive issue of paying for moving U.S. forces. Under the status of forces agreement, if South Korea wants forces to relocate, it must foot the bill.
U.S. and South Korean officials will meet early next month for more discussion, but no date has been set for that meeting, Lee said.
— Choe Song-won contributed to this report.