S. Korean official: U.S. wants more land
SEOUL — A senior South Korean official said Tuesday that the United States has asked for additional land for U.S. forces on the peninsula.
Lt. Gen. Cha Young-koo, assistant defense minister for policy, confirmed the request during a news conference Tuesday afternoon.
The JoonAng Ilbo, a Korean-language paper, reported that South Korea accepted a U.S. request for about 2,223 acres in Pyeongtaek and Osan, south of Seoul, to relocate two major Army units.
However, Cha wouldn’t confirm the amount of land requested.
“It’s not a matter I can verify now,” he was quoted as saying in a Defense Ministry release. “We recognize that some additional land might be needed, but we don’t know how much … as we haven’t conducted any study.”
Cha is South Korea’s chief delegate in the “Future of the Alliance Policy Initiative” talks. The first such meeting with U.S. officials was held early last month in Seoul.
In that session, officials agreed to move forces from Yongsan Garrison “as soon as possible” but gave no time line. The 630-acre post, in the middle of Seoul, hosts three military commands.
Officials also discussed the need to “consolidate the USFK base structure,” according to a statement released after the early April talks. “The U.S. side expressed an understanding of the concerns of the Korean people regarding the realignment of USFK, including 2ID.”
The realignment — or relocation — of the Army’s 2nd Infantry Division has been controversial since Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld said in March that the forces intrude on South Korea’s civilian population.
But U.S. officials, speaking at a news conference after the early April meetings, said, “At this point in time, we have not advanced our discussions to the subject of the 2nd Infantry Division relocation.”
The 14,000-soldier division is spread out north of Seoul along the Demilitarized Zone.
Cha also confirmed that a second set of talks, set for Tuesday and Wednesday in Hawaii, are being postponed until later this month.
— Choe Song-won contributed to this report.
JSA talk a surprise to USFK
SEOUL — U.S. Forces Korea could not confirm a local news report that the United States wants to pull its troops out of the Joint Security Area.
“This is the first I’ve heard of this, and I have no information on that topic,” said USFK spokeswoman Lee Ferguson, referring to a report in the Korean-language newspaper Choson Ilbo.
The JSA — also known as Truce Village — sits in the Demilitarized Zone. Meetings between U.N. Command and Korean People’s Army and the Chinese People’s Volunteers are held in the JSA, an 800-meter-wide enclave, roughly circular in shape, that bisects the Military Demarcation Line separating the Koreas.
The paper — quoting South Korean Defense Ministry sources — reported Wednesday that the issue of pulling the U.S. soldiers out of the JSA was discussed during “Future of the Alliance Policy Initiative” talks last month.
Maj. Kim Ki-bom, a Defense Ministry spokesman, refuted the report.
“The issue of South Korea taking more military responsibility was discussed, but exact locations were not determined.”
JSA soldiers — about 250 U.S. troops and 350 South Koreans — belong to the U.N. Command Security Battalion. It’s the only joint battalion in South Korea, and the soldiers are hand-picked to serve in the DMZ.
— T.D. Flack