U.S. troops to leave Yongsan by 2007
YONGSAN GARRISON, South Korea — The United States and South Korea completed military talks in Hawaii on Friday with an agreement to move all U.S. troops out of Yongsan Garrison by 2007, ending a 50-year presence in Seoul.
After the second day of the sixth round of Future of the Alliance talks, the two sides agreed to move U.S. Forces Korea headquarters, the U.N. Command and the Combined Forces Command out of Seoul and onto new U.S. bases in the Pyongtaek and Osan areas, officials said.
The announcement was made at a joint press conference with South Korean Lt. Gen. Cha Young-koo and U.S. Deputy Assistant Defense Secretary Richard Lawless, the chief negotiators for each side.
“We shared the view that the relocation of the CFC and UNC will further strengthen the bilateral alliance and pave the way for creating a stable environment for the U.S. military presence in South Korea for the long term,” Cha said.
Cha and Lawless said Saturday there had been no discussions about reducing the overall number of U.S. troops in South Korea.
According to Lawless, between 50 and 100 U.S. troops will stay in a liaison office next to the South Korean defense ministry headquarters in Seoul. The move would begin by the end of next year, he said.
The former Yongsan Garrison would then be turned over to the Seoul city government, officials said.
Both sides said talks will continue throughout this year to hammer out unresolved issues, including how to pay for the move. Under previous agreements, South Korea would bear all of the estimated $3 billion cost of moving troops from Seoul to Pyongtaek.
The decision came as a result of larger negotiations to reshuffle the 37,000 U.S. troops in the country, including the eventual move of forces away from the Demilitarized Zone.
Under terms agreed to last year, the two allies signed a plan to eventually close about half of the U.S. bases in South Korea, moving most troops to new military hubs near Osan Air Base and Camp Humphreys. Many of the 2nd Infantry Division units would consolidate at Camp Red Cloud and Camp Casey before moving further south from the DMZ and out of North Korea’s long-distance artillery range.
U.S. officials have said they are not reducing the number of troops in South Korea under the plan but have touted some $11 billion in upgrades to military hardware as a way to keep a strong deterrent force while moving forces to different locations.
Cha said that, under the agreement, South Korea would not be required to compensate local Korean employees who would lose their base jobs when Yongsan Garrison is turned over to the South Koreans.
Yongsan Garrison’s relocation has long been a stumbling block in the larger negotiations. South Korean officials wanted the Americans to leave about 1,000 troops on a reduced version of Yongsan, but the two sides could not agree on the amount of land to be kept for the base.
U.S. officials have said they would like to move troops out of Seoul in part because of the sensitivities of having some 8,000 American soldiers in the middle of South Korea’s capital.
Cha said Saturday the move was “certain” to ease some of the tensions.