U.S. officials deny report of Yongsan change
September 5, 2003
YONGSAN GARRISON, South Korea — American officials are disputing a South Korean news report claiming the United States wants to retain more of Yongsan Garrison than it originally planned on keeping.
In a press release attributed to the U.S. deputy assistant secretary of defense for Asian and Pacific affairs, the Joong-Ang Ilbo story was called a “fundamental” misrepresentation of the discussions.
“The misleading characterization of the U.S.’s position, attributed to senior Ministry of National Defense officials, is not helpful to the ongoing discussions,” the release read.
“We remain fully committed to relocating Yongsan as soon as possible, as agreed to in 1990 and as confirmed by both [nations’] presidents in 2003. We ask that media afford us the opportunity to respond to single-source stories before taking them to print to ensure fair and balanced reporting to the Korean people.”
This week, U.S. Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense Richard Lawless is in Seoul meeting with his South Korean counterparts to continue discussions on force relocation and transfer of some military missions.
Lawless and members of the South Korean defense ministry are expected to hold a press conference on Thursday to update the talks.
The press release took issue with a story carried on the Joong-Ang Web site Wednesday morning. According to the story, an unnamed “senior South Korean defense official” said U.S. forces now want to keep 40 percent of the land that makes up Yongsan Garrison.
That figure is about twice the area that South Korean officials estimated a month ago, the report says.
The unnamed official also was reported to have said the headquarters of the United Nations Command and the Korea-U.S. Combined Forces Command would remain in Seoul.
U.S. Forces Korea officials periodically issue media statements to correct what it views as inaccurate media reports, particularly in regard to the hot-button issue of relocating American forces on the Korean peninsula.
South Korean Defense Minister Cho Young-kil previously said he hopes a draft plan would be in place by a scheduled October meeting with Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld.