Talks on base relocation in South Korea extended
YONGSAN GARRISON, South Korea — Talks focusing on the future shape and location of U.S. forces in South Korea have been extended, American and South Korean negotiators said Wednesday.
The three-day session of the Future of the Alliance Policy Initiative was supposed to end Wednesday morning. But by the end of the day, officials from both sides said the talks were “ongoing,” yet declined to elaborate.
This week’s sessions are the fifth and final round of talks aimed at resolving the timetable for moving U.S. troops out of Seoul and away from the Demilitarized Zone. The move’s cost and replacement facilities are among the sticking points.
Because the meeting still is under way, a press conference scheduled for Wednesday was canceled, said a South Korean National Ministry of Defense spokesman.
“Until the press conference, anything on the meeting is withheld,” said Capt. Lee Song-jin.
Master Sgt. Dawn Hart, a U.S. Forces Korea spokeswoman, confirmed Wednesday that the talks were continuing and that no news briefings or releases would be made until they concluded.
Led by Richard Lawless, U.S. deputy assistant secretary of defense for Asian and Pacific affairs, and Lt. Gen. Cha Young-koo, South Korean deputy minister for policy, this week’s talks were the first held on Yongsan Garrison, the 600-acre compound that’s home to about 7,000 soldiers.
Earlier in the week, South Korean Prime Minister Goh Kun said the government has put a $3 billion price tag on land and relocation costs, beginning next year. It was the first time the South Koreans publicly announced a figure.
South Korea will start buying land early next year near Pyongtaek and Osan, officials said. They hope the relocation can be completed by 2006, but that date still is up in the air.
This week’s meetings were expected to firm up agreements before an annual high-level security meeting between Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and his South Korean counterpart.
That meeting was scheduled for late October in Seoul but has been pushed back until November at the request of the American delegation.