South Korean lawmakers have passed a 2005 national budget that earmarks funds toward the U.S. military’s eventual move of its forces from Seoul to the Pyongtaek region.

The National Assembly passed the $186 billion budget late Friday by a vote of 201 to 56 with 12 abstentions.

The budget sets aside about $96.4 million for the Seoul-to-Pyongtaek relocation, according to an Assembly official.

Under a South Korean-U.S. agreement, the U.S. military eventually will move its troops and organizations from Yongsan Garrison and 13 smaller installations in Seoul to Camp Humphreys and Osan Air Base in Pyongtaek.

The total projected cost of the relocation to west central South Korea, to be carried out over the next several years, is $3.4 billion.

Key to the move is enlarging Camp Humphreys’ borders to make room for the U.S. forces to be moved there eventually, as well as somewhat enlarging Osan Air Base. A detailed master plan also must be drawn up first.

South Korean authorities would spend part of the earmarked funds to buy the needed land.

“It means they can start actually buying land now and we can get the master plan under way and some initial design work, which are really the next steps we need to accomplish,” Army Col. Daniel Wilson, chief engineer for U.S. Forces Korea in Seoul, told Stars and Stripes on Monday.

The Assembly’s vote to pass the budget bill came at virtually the last minute Friday night, narrowly beating a midnight deadline, The Associated Press reported. Had the deadline passed without a budget, South Korea would have faced the need for an emergency budget for the first time in its history.

The Assembly also voted Friday night to extend for another year the deployment of the 3,600 troops of South Korea’s Zaytun Unit in the northern Iraqi town of Irbil.

Hwang Hae-rym contributed to this report.

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