Support our mission

YONGSAN GARRISON, South Korea — The long-negotiated move of Yongsan Garrison from Seoul to Pyongtaek was finalized at bilateral meetings in Washington Friday, with completion of the move pushed back until 2008.

According to a joint statement issued by the United States and South Korea, all 8,000 U.S. forces at Yongsan — which includes U.S. Forces Korea and the 8th Army headquarters — will move to an expanded military hub in Pyongtaek, currently home to Camp Humphreys and Osan Air Base.

An earlier version of the agreement, reached under the Future of the Alliance Policy Initiative, or FOTA, said the move would be completed by 2007. The statement did not address why the move was pushed back one year. But officials from both sides said they were pleased with the results.

“This relocation agreement helps us meet our enduring commitment to the defense of Korea and to the security and stability of the region,” said Richard Lawless, the lead U.S. negotiator and deputy under secretary of defense for Asia Pacific affairs.

Under the agreement, which must be ratified by South Korea’s National Assembly, the South Korean government will bear all of the estimated $3 billion to $4 billion in moving costs. The final sticking point — the amount of land to be granted in Pyongtaek — was resolved after lengthy negotiations, officials said.

The U.S. military also agreed to return three of its bases earlier than scheduled. Camp Hialeah in Pusan, Camp Falling Water in Uijongbu and Camp Page in Chuncheon will all be returned by 2006, officials said. Under a separate agreement called the Land Partnership Plan, those bases were to be returned in 2010 and 2011.

The two sides also finalized amendments to plans for the “eventual relocation” of 2nd Infantry Division bases to locations south of the Han River. But, the joint statement read, “a final decision on the timing of the 2nd Infantry Division relocation will be decided by the respective national leaders at a later date, taking careful account of the political, economic and security situation on the peninsula and in Northeast Asia.”

By some accounts, the two-day meeting, which began Thursday, started out a little rougher than planned. According to South Korean negotiators, the U.S. side raised the possibility of expanded troop cuts if a favorable deal on the Yongsan move was not reached.

“The U.S. side pressed us, saying that additional troop reductions would be inevitable if the amount of land were reduced, so the atmosphere of the talks was cool at one stage,” Ahn Kwang-chan, the chief South Korean delegate, said according to South Korea’s Yonhap news agency.

“But we succeeded in getting a compromise after raising the worsening of public sentiment following the [South Korean] government’s decision to send additional troops to Iraq,” Ahn said, referring to a 3,000-strong deployment scheduled for later this year.

According to South Korean officials, this week’s agreement includes provisions for the South Koreans to pay for 330 of the new lodging facilities to be used at the expanded hub in Pyongtaek. South Korean firms will also construct nearly 1,000 more housing facilities, which the U.S. military will then lease from the government, officials said.

The Yongsan Garrison agreement is a major aspect of reshaping the future U.S. presence on the Korean Peninsula, officials have said. Under another proposal, yet to be negotiated, the Pentagon wants to remove 12,500 of the 38,000 servicemembers in South Korea by 2005.

With the Yongsan move now finalized, the 11th round of FOTA talks, scheduled for August, will likely focus on the troop reduction, officials said.

Stripes in 7

around the web

Sign Up for Daily Headlines

Sign-up to receive a daily email of today’s top military news stories from Stars and Stripes and top news outlets from around the world.

Sign up