VIP visits expected to tie up Yongsan, Seoul
YONGSAN GARRISON, South Korea — Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld isn’t the only bigwig in Seoul this weekend. Former President Clinton is here, too. And so is Gen. Richard Myers, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.
Each is on a different, high-profile mission that puts South Korea squarely in the international media spotlight. The visits focus on big-picture issues: the North Korean nuclear threat; the South Korean promise of troops in Iraq; the movement of U.S. forces around the peninsula.
But for most residents around Seoul and Yongsan Garrison, the visits mean increased traffic and security precautions.
Earlier this week, military officials in Seoul released a traffic advisory for those caught in motorcade madness. Because of the “distinguished visitor schedule,” the advisory said, “expect traffic delays on Main and South Posts from Nov. 13 thru (sic) Nov. 18.”
By Friday morning, the increased security was already in effect. Military police were at all the entrances to the Dragon Hill Lodge, checking identifications of people entering the facility.
There was also an increase in the number of Korean National Police riot patrols outside of U.S. bases, South Korean officials said.
Rumsfeld is scheduled to arrive Sunday for the Security Consultative Meeting, an annual powwow between top U.S. and South Korean defense officials. He’s expected to meet with the South Korean defense minister Monday and possibly tour area installations to greet U.S. soldiers.
Myers is also on the trip. His schedule reportedly includes a visit to South Korea’s Special Forces Command on Tuesday. Analysts here say the move is designed as a not-too-subtle hint that the United States would like South Korea to send some of its top troops to Iraq.
South Korean officials say they will send about 3,000 troops in addition to the 700 engineers and medics already in Iraq. A final decision has not been made, though Rumsfeld’s visit was expected to firm up the commitment.
Myers also is scheduled to attend the Military Committee Meeting, which kicks off Saturday and includes the chairman of the South Korean Joint Chiefs of Staff.
Clinton, meanwhile, is in Seoul at the invitation of the Korea-United States Exchange Council. It’s his first time back since visiting the Demilitarized Zone in 1998.
He’s scheduled to meet with South Korean President Roh Moo-hyun and former president Kim Dae-jung. He’ll also deliver a series of speeches and visit a children’s charity, officials said.