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SEOUL — Following two days of high-level meetings on the U.S.-South Korean alliance’s future, officials from the two countries said they intend to move Yongsan Garrison out of Seoul “as quickly as possible.”

Key players in the “Future of the ROK-US Alliance Policy Initiative” meetings included Richard Lawless, the U.S. deputy assistant secretary of defense for Asia-Pacific affairs; Christopher LaFleur, special envoy to the Department of State; South Korean Lt. Gen. Cha Young-ku, deputy minister for policy of the ROK Ministry of National Defense; and Shim Yoon-joe, director general, North American Affairs Bureau of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade.

Lawless, speaking with Cha at a joint news conference Wednesday in the Ministry of National Defense, said the issue of relocating Yongsan has been “vexing us for the last 12 to 20 years.”

He said the U.S. “never really found a solution” for moving the garrison, which houses headquarters for the 8th U.S. Army, U.S. Forces Korea and the United Nations Command. But, he added, South Korean and U.S. officials have decided “this is an issue that could not wait any longer to resolve.”

Lawless was unable to provide any time line on the move, saying it would happen “as quickly as possible.”

Pentagon officials have said they want to relocate the 630-acre Yongsan Garrison and have preliminary ideas for repositioning some U.S. forces “south of the Han River” on the lower end of downtown Seoul.

But Lawless told reporters “at this point in time, we have not advanced our discussions to the subject of the 2nd Infantry Division relocation.”

According to a press release, officials discussed the need to “consolidate the USFK base structure in order to preserve an enduring stationing environment for USFK, to achieve higher efficiency in managing USFK bases, and to foster a balanced development of South Korean national lands. The U.S. side expressed an understanding of the concerns of the Korean people regarding the realignment of USFK, including 2ID.”

Cha stressed that the alliance must remain strong for deterrence and that South Korea will play a strong role in that relationship.

“Both parties agreed in principle to expand ROK forces’ role in defense of the peninsula and to enhance U.S. forces’ contribution to regional stability,” the release stated.

It also indicated the two sides agreed to consult on the modernization of South Korean and U.S. military capabilities “in an effort to further enhance … combined defense posture and deterrence capabilities.”

Cha said the war in Iraq has been a great educational tool for both the South Korean people and their military leaders.

He added that South Korea will consult with the United States on implementing those lessons in future “war-fighting plans.”

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