S. Korea base relocation plans advance
YONGSAN GARRISON, South Korea — While no new firm agreements were announced, officials said this week the latest Future of the Alliance Policy Initiative talks between the United States and South Korea moved the base-relocation process forward.
The eighth round of FOTA talks, held this past weekend in Washington, follows a series of discussions that resulted in an agreement to move Yongsan Garrison and its roughly 7,000 U.S. personnel out of Seoul by 2007.
Last week’s meeting, officials said, closed with an accord on making the “umbrella agreement” governing the larger relocation plans more “concrete,” a top South Korean negotiator said on his return to Seoul.
The two sides still are working toward specific agreements on budgetary issues and move costs, Lt. Gen. Kwan An-do, deputy defense minister for policy, told South Korean reporters.
After some of the earlier rounds of FOTA talks, U.S. and South Korean officials have issued joint statements on what results were reached; no statement was released after the eighth round.
But according to Kwan, the two sides struck a deal on who would pay for housing at a new U.S. military hub to be built in Pyongtaek for the forces relocated from Yongsan. Under that arrangement, the South Korean government would pay for on-base housing of U.S. military members, but not off-base housing.
“We will bear the expenses needed to build new houses that will substitute those currently within the compound of Yongsan Garrison,” Kwan said, according to South Korean media reports. “For additional residences outside the barrack, the U.S. will shoulder the burden under the form of making a lease contract. And we will give administrative support.”
The two sides still have “technical problems” over the relocation cost, estimated at $3 billion to $4 billion, according to a joint statement issued in February after the seventh round of talks. Under previous agreements, South Korea must bear all relocation expenses.
The larger, so-called umbrella agreement will be a formal pact between the two nations and require ratification by the South Korean National Assembly, officials have said.