Bell: $10B relocation figure ‘incorrect’
Stars and Stripes March 19, 2008
SEOUL — U.S. Forces Korea commander Gen. B.B. Bell said Monday that reports he told Congress that South Korea will pay $10 billion to move U.S. troops south of Seoul by 2012 are incorrect.
Bell blamed a “misstatement or mischaracterization” in a transcript of his March 12 speech to House Appropriations Subcommittee for the error. That “misstatement” was quoted in numerous South Korean newspaper and television reports, causing an uproar in a country that has pledged to pay about $4.5 billion toward the relocation project.
Several South Korean civic groups demanded Monday that Bell and U.S. Ambassador Alexander Vershbow resign, according to news reports.
The South Korean media quoted Bell — speaking to the subcommittee — as saying that South Korea had spent “about $2 billion in an effort that’s going to cost them around $10 billion. It’s on the magnitude of the Guam move.”
The Guam move refered to Japan agreeing to shoulder much of the cost of relocating 8,000 U.S Marines and their families from Okinawa to the Pacific island under a troop realignment pact.
South Korea’s Yonhap News said the comments were taken from a transcript made by the Federal News Service, which provides verbatim transcripts of government hearings.
USFK spokesman Col. Franklin Childress said Bell has ordered the transcript not to be posted on the command’s Web site, www.usfk.mil, until the “error” is corrected.
When asked if the transcript contained a misstatement by Bell or if the South Korean media mistranslated what he said, Childress said, “the transcript contains the error.”
A spokesman from South Korea’s Ministry of National Defense said the agency never received a transcript of Bell’s speech but has requested one from their “diplomatic channels” in Washington.
The ministry spokesman said the two countries never agreed that South Korea would pay $10 billion toward the relocation.