Official: South Korea won’t be blamed for delaying move
January 12, 2007
PYEONGTAEK, South Korea — South Korean Foreign Minister Song Min-soon said Wednesday his nation is doing its best to support the planned relocation of U.S. forces to Pyeongtaek but can’t be held liable if the move is delayed, South Korea’s Yonhap news agency reported.
His comments come one day after Gen. B.B. Bell, the U.S. Forces Korea commander, said South Korea’s government must not delay USFK’s move to Pyeongtaek and that he would “fight” such a situation. Bell’s remarks came at a news conference Tuesday in Seoul.
Song’s remarks Wednesday later were posted on the Web site of South Korea’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade.
U.S. forces in Seoul and at points north in Area I are scheduled to move south to Pyeongtaek by 2008 under a South Korean-U.S. agreement.
Camp Humphreys in Pyeongtaek first would be enlarged, then would become home to the bulk of those forces and serve as the flagship U.S. military installation on the peninsula.
South Korea’s defense ministry recently said the move might be delayed until 2013, partly over concerns about how the two nations would share costs.
“The South Korean government has a strong determination to carry out the U.S. military base relocation plan at the earliest date possible,” Yonhap quoted Song as saying at a Wednesday news briefing in Seoul. “This is an issue for which South Korea and the U.S. need to find the most suitable time for both of them but it is not an issue in which one side can hold the other responsible.”
Song said he told U.S. officials of South Korea’s determination to see the project through and that the United States is “very well aware of it,” Yonhap reported. Song visited Washington last week.
The relocation is estimated to cost about $10 billion, Yonhap said.
On Tuesday, Bell told reporters the two nations “agreed in 2004 to get this done by 2008. The problem is, pretty quick in the future all that could stop because of either fiscal constraints … or political decisions. And I will fight this.”
Bell also had voiced surprise that the South Korean government had not consulted with USFK before telling news media about the possible delay.
“This was news to me and not at all reflective of the agreement we have with the Republic of Korea,” Bell said.