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SEOUL — A South Korean congresswoman said Thursday that U.S. Forces Korea has reduced its overall fighting strength by about 23 percent since 1998.

Congresswoman Song Young-sun, a member of the Korean National Defense Committee, made the comments after issuing a report based on her research.

USFK officials, queried Friday, responded via e-mail, stating “our force levels and support of the defense of Korea are negotiated with the full cooperation of the ROK government at venues such as the upcoming Military and Security Consultative Meetings.”

ROK stands for Republic of Korea, the official name for South Korea.

Song detailed the reduction in equipment, ammunition and personnel, which her spokesman, Hong Il-ong, verified Friday afternoon.

According to Song, USFK has lost between 3,400 and 3,700 troops, 20 tanks, 16 aircraft and 150 helicopters, among other assets.

She said USFK had added Patriot missiles and some A-10 aircraft on the peninsula.

“As a matter of policy USFK does not confirm the number of systems, personnel or specific equipment assigned except in general terms,” USFK said in its e-mail.

“It would be inappropriate for us to address a private analysis of our capabilities made with information we did not provide.”

USFK also said that the United States is investing “$11 billion by 2008 on 150 programs to enhance the deterrent capability on the peninsula.”

“The $11 billion being spent is tangible evidence of our continuing commitment to the ROK-U.S. alliance,” USFK said.

Lt. Col. Jung Jong-wu with the Ministry of National Defense said there were many inaccuracies in Song’s report. He refused to provide specifics, however, stating that the issue of military strength is confidential.

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