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SEOUL — South Korea will build an air-to-ground bomb range for U.S. military use on an island off the country’s west coast, Ministry of National Defense officials confirmed Monday.

According to local news reports, Gunsan city officials have accepted the Defense Ministry’s Aug. 16 request to build the range on Chikdo Island, about 40 miles off the coast. The reports stated that South Korea offered the local officials a $350 million financial aid package.

The issue has simmered since South Korea closed the Kooni Range Complex in August 2005, leaving U.S. aircrews without adequate peninsula training facilities. Several high-ranking U.S. officials, including U.S. Forces Korea commander Gen. B.B. Bell, have said that aircrews have been forced to travel out of South Korea for training and that the situation was dire.

On Sept. 19, U.S. 7th Air Force commander Lt. Gen. Garry Trexler told about 300 members of the Gyeonggi provincial government at an academic forum that if no solution was found for the problem within 30 days, the Air Force would begin pulling its troops off the peninsula, according to Korean news reports.

U.S. officials refused to confirm whether Trexler made the comments, stating that there was no English transcript or copy of a speech available.

“We don’t have any comment,” said USFK spokesman Dave Oten.

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