No agreement on funding Yongsan move
SEOUL — Two days of military talks between South Korean and U.S. officials ended Saturday without agreement on funding details that would finalize the move of Yongsan Garrison out of Seoul.
The seventh round of the Future of the Alliance Policy Initiative talks was meant to codify an agreement reached last month to move all 7,000 U.S. troops — including the Combined Forces Command, U.S. Forces Korea and the United Nations Command — to a new military hub in Pyongtaek by 2007.
But the two sides still have “technical problems” over the cost of relocation, according to a joint statement issued Saturday. That cost is estimated between $3 billion and $4 billion. Under previous agreements, South Korea must bear the full relocation cost.
Both sides agreed they moved “measurably closer” to an agreement and “stressed that the relocation should be completed in a timely manner without any unnecessary delays,” the joint statement read.
At a press conference after the meetings, Lt. Gen. Cha Young- koo, the lead South Korean negotiator, said money was the main stumbling block.
“The respective countries need to check more completely whether some sentences and words are unclear in the documented agreement over the expense,” Cha said, according to South Korean media reports.
In the joint statements, the two sides said they hoped to reach a final agreement at the next round of FOTA talks, tentatively scheduled for March in the United States. Any final deal would have to be ratified by the South Korean National Assembly, Cha said.
During last week’s meetings, the U.S. delegation thanked the South Koreans for formally approving the dispatch of 3,000 additional troops to help with the security situation in Iraq. According to the joint statement, both sides also reaffirmed previous agreements about expanding South Korea’s ability to defend itself.
U.S. officials have repeatedly said any shuffling of U.S. troops on the Korean Peninsula is being paired with an $11 billion program to upgrade military technology.
Some 37,000 U.S. troops are stationed in South Korea as a deterrent to North Korea’s million-man military. U.S. plans call for the eventual movement of U.S. troops away from the Demilitarized Zone and out of range of the North’s border artillery.
The U.S. negotiating team was led by Assistant Secretary of Defense Richard Lawless. The FOTA talks have been ongoing since December 2002.