Report: S. Korea bargaining to keep troops in Seoul
YONGSAN GARRISON, South Korea — At next week’s Future of the Alliance meetings in Hawaii, South Korean officials will offer the United States more land in Seoul if some U.S. troops are left in the capital, news reports said Monday.
According to several South Korean papers, South Korea will offer 163 acres of Yongsan Garrison for use by the United Nations Command and the Combined Forces Command.
The land offer is a “bargaining chip to keep the United Nations Command and the Combined Forces Command in the capital,” an unnamed “senior government official” was quoted as saying by the Korea Times.
In previous talks, South Korea and the United States agreed to a broad outline of moving U.S. troops around the peninsula, including moving most Yongsan troops to consolidated “hubs” near Osan and Pyongtaek by 2006.
Originally, plans called for fewer than 1,000 U.S. troops to remain at Yongsan.
But according to the media reports, that agreement fell apart in a dispute over the amount of land to be kept for remaining forces.
According to the Joong-Ang Ilbo newspaper, South Korea had previously offered the United States 139 acres of the 662-acre Yongsan Garrison. U.S. officials reportedly wanted to keep about 228 acres.
With the talks at an impasse, the paper reported the United States said it would move all of its forces out of Seoul, keeping only a 16-acre plot that includes the Dragon Hill Lodge. That prompted a group of 147 South Korea lawmakers to sign a petition objecting to the proposed move.
Both U.S. and South Korean military officials declined to comment on Monday’s reports, saying both sides still were working on the issue.
The talks — the sixth in a series — are scheduled to be held Jan. 15 and 16.
U.S. officials have repeatedly said the reorganization of some 37,000 troops in South Korea would give them greater flexibility and agility while taking them out of range of North Korean artillery.
The moves are also aimed at stemming public discomfort over having a large military presence in Seoul.