House Armed Services panel members, in Korea, talk about base relocation
January 12, 2005
SEOUL — Plans for relocating Yongsan Garrison and other U.S. military bases in South Korea are under way and on target, a U.S. House Armed Services Committee member said Monday during a visit to Korea’s capital city.
“This is a partnership and this future of the alliance is something that has been discussed by both Korea and the United States,” Rep. Randy Forbes, R-Va., said during an evening press briefing at U.S. Ambassador Christopher Hill’s home in Seoul.
“Nothing comes without some conflicts to it,” said Forbes, who traveled to Asia this week with nine other members of the committee. “It’s important to note, too, that we have supplemented this great alliance and security with about $11 billion of capability enhancements which we think are going to be vitally crucial as well.”
A House colleague on the trip, Rep. Ike Skelton, D-Mo., praised the relocation plans he saw Monday, saying the military’s investment in technology upgrades will better prepare it to help protect South Korea and monitor its current armistice agreement with North Korea.
“We received a rather thorough briefing on this whole issue,” Skelton said. “I think it makes sense to combine where the troops will be, instead of having them shotgunned, or scattered around.”
Forbes and Skelton praised South Korea for working cooperatively with U.S. Forces Korea to prepare to shift thousands of U.S. troops from the country’s northern region and Seoul to the central region.
By the end of 2008, most U.S. forces are to be concentrated in the Pyongtaek region, near Osan Air Base, and Yongsan Garrison will shrink to barely 20 acres, according to current plans. U.S. troop strength, now about 34,000, is to decrease by about a third.
The legislators ate with soldiers at Yongsan Garrison and met with local business leaders and top South Korean government officials during their visit Sunday and Monday.
Forbes called the group one of the largest congressional delegations to visit Korea in years. At the end of the week, another bi-partisan group, led by Rep. Curt Weldon, R-Pa., also is to visit Seoul.
Other lawmakers with Forbes and Skelton Monday included Neil Ambercrombie, D-Hawaii; Jim Cooper, D-Tenn.; Phil Gingrey, R-Ga.; Rick Larsen, D-Wash.; Jeff Miller, R-Fla.; Steve Pearce, R-N.M.; and Joe Wilson, R-S.C. A non-voting delegate to Congress, Madeleine Bordallo, D-Guam, also attended.
Both Forbes and Skelton discussed the Korean War and the United State’s half-century military commitment in South Korea.
“Three of my good friends died here in that event,” Skelton said. “A good number of the people in my district fought in the Korean War.”
He also talked about how much Korea has evolved since then.
“To those veterans and to those families who made those sacrifices back in the early 1950s ... this is a success story,” he said. “Korea is a highly successful reflection of what good can come out of a very difficult conflict.”